The AniTAY seasonal anime recommendation list is back with another batch of series for Spring 2020. Every season, the AniTAY authors from around the globe congregate in the great AniTAY anime conference room (discord) to select, debate, and painstakingly narrow down a list of our favorite shows of the season. Thanks to the great variety of contributors and seasonal anime to choose from, our list has a little bit of something for everyone.
Long time readers might notice that there are significantly fewer shows on the list this season than there were last season. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I noticed in recent collaborations that our standards for what makes the list had become a bit laid back, which resulted in a slightly bloated Winter 2020 list. I stand by all of our articles, but this time around we decided to be more selective with our choices so that readers can clearly understand which anime we highly recommend that they watch.
We also had a slightly limited selection of shows to choose from this season due to Coronavirus-related delays. The virus spread to Tokyo in April, where most anime studios’ offices are located. This resulted in numerous cancellations and delays for studios whose employees found themselves suddenly unable to come into work. We decided not to consider any shows that were delayed before the season began. However, we still considered any series that aired at least a couple of episodes this season, even if it was later delayed.
With all this in mind, some final notes:
- As always, we have omitted continuing shows and sequels. Only new stuff here. Check out our spring sequel guide below for information about sequels.
- Similarly, only shows available for legal streaming are considered. Netflix has complicated what the word “available” means, but we still consider limited-availability shows such as Netflix originals for this list.
- We included a “where to watch” section, but keep in mind that our listings are based off availability in the United States.
(Note: Delayed mid-season due to the virus.)
Written by: Arcane
Genre: Kids, Shounen, Adventure, Action, Comedy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler Free Synopsis: The day before he’s supposed to head out for summer camp, Taichi Yagami meets a new neighbor at his door - the slightly-younger Koshiro Izumi - and the two find themselves sudden companions through a strange afternoon in Tokyo, where traffic lights start going crazy and the trains refuse to stop. That includes the particular train carrying Taichi’s mother and sister, and Tai sets off towards the station to investigate for himself in a blind panic, jumping the turnstiles...and finding himself in a strange cyber otherworld, next to a small orange dinosaur who introduces himself as “Agumon”.
A new adventure begins!
Why You Should Be Watching: Being that I wrote this show up for our sequel guide a few months ago, I’d like to issue a clarification. We know now that not only is Digimon Adventure a total reboot of the franchise, but a bold one. The first three episodes (the only ones aired before the pandemic shut the production down) remade not the first bit of Digimon Adventure, but the film Our War Game as the new beginning of the story, and it works beautifully. The most difficult roadblock that Digimon Adventure had was that nearly the entire cast, fourteen main characters, is introduced in just the first episode, meaning that it takes a bit before you have more than a surface-level understanding of any individual child or partner monster despite the fact that they all have a lot going on underneath. Thus far, we’ve only seen three of the kids and two of their partners. In just the first episode, however, Taichi and Koshiro get more of an established dynamic than the majority of the original series, and though Yamato hasn’t spoken or done much yet, what we see of him is perfectly true to the character he reveals himself to be underneath layers of denial, frustration and overprotectiveness.
It’s a surprising beginning that also looks far better than the source material, cutting out all of the recycled animation and canned evolution sequences (so far) in favor of honest-to-god action scenes, something frequently missing from the early Digimon shows in their attempts to conserve their budgets. It’s the difference between Sailor Moon and Futari wa Pretty Cure, and that alone is huge, but the opening is also no slouch, packing a new tune with a boatload of nostalgic references and hints about what is to come. We may be in the Digital World now, but in the age of reimagined classics, that doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed. That, to me, is a very exciting prospect.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, TGRIP
Written by: Dark Aether
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Family
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “It was an extremely boring manga. There were no swords or magic. Nothing exciting happened. It was just a story about a father, mother, and daughter living out their mundane lives. But that mundane life was everything that I’d ever dreamed of.”
Kakushi Gotou is a single dad raising his daughter Hime while working as a manga artist. Best known for his dirty, inappropriate, and provocative works, he made the decision to keep his occupation a secret from Hime, fearing she would grow up to be ashamed of her father. Posing as a salaryman, he takes extreme measures to ensure his secret is safe, often pulling himself and the people closest to him into his strange delusions. For Goutou, life as a mangaka and a father are one in the same as all manga and children eventually outgrow their parents. In due time, his current series will end and Hime will grow up. This is a story of familial bonds, love, and a secret ambition that ties them together.
Why You Should Be Watching: Based on the manga of the same name, Kakushigoto: My Dad’s Secret Ambition (a wordplay on “Secrets” and “Drawing”) is a show of dualities not obvious from the promo art. While much of the show’s humor is built around Gotou’s antics and paranoia over keeping his profession hidden from Hime such as having his assistants run errands, disposing of merchandise or work documents, or underselling his drawing ability when asked to help with Hime’s homework (while hurting his pride as an artist), the anime avoids framing him as a one-joke character by emphasizing his role as a provider. A recurring gag is the women in his neighborhood commonly mistaking his comments and “plight of being a single dad” as flirting while Gotou is lost in thought at how to resolve Hime’s latest dilemma.
Behind the humor, however, is a larger narrative that tips off where the series will eventually end. Early on, we get a glimpse of an 18-year-old Hime looking through a number of boxes – a box marked for each birthday with a gift or necessary “rite of passage” to mark the milestone – with the majority of the series taking place sometime in the past. There is a noticeable shift in tone and color indicating that a major event has taken place by this point in time. Each episode ends with a brief glimpse of what’s to come as Gotou’s career as a mangaka and parent come full circle. In some ways, I can’t help but draw comparisons to last season’s Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Somali and the Forest Spirit with the way the story handles both of Gotou’s roles simultaneously. While not quite as nuanced in detailing the creative process of its main character’s profession or exploring the darker side of parenting in each of those series, Kakushigoto commits to its ordinary setting, seamlessly weaving both into its comedy while building towards its inevitable conclusion.
As I started this write up, I thought a lot about the quote above from a recent episode. Every season, there tends to be one or two shows that get overlooked or simply aren’t advertised enough that makes it easy for someone to lose track of what’s right around the corner – myself included. Like finding a new favorite manga at your local bookstore or a hidden shop in your neighborhood for the first time, Kakushigoto is this season’s best kept secret.
Recommended by: Aoi Yamato, Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Hip Hip Jorge, hybridmink, Protonstorm, Stinolez, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: Koda
Genre: Isekai, Otome, Reverse Harem, Romantic Comedy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Catarina Claes is the daughter of a well-off noble family. One day, she accidentally falls, hits her head, and starts having strange dreams of a world she vaguely recognizes. Catarina eventually realizes that her dreams were her memories of her past life as a high school otaku and that she was somehow reborn into the realm of her favorite otome visual novel Fortune Lover as the game’s main villain who either dies or gets exiled in all of the endings. Now armed with the desire to ward off certain doom and the foreknowledge required to do so, Catarina makes it her life’s mission to avoid her destined doom flags.
Why You Should Be Watching: It’s often been repeated over the last several years that the isekai genre has become an absolutely packed field where it is increasingly difficult to stand out. My Next Life as a Villainess manages to solve this problem in a massive and quite potentially genre-shifting way. Your typical bog-standard isekai series sees the hero dropped into a world based primarily on fantasy RPGs. Villainess’ solution to this is to shift the genre of the game-like world the main character is thrust into. In this case, that world is an otome romance game that admittedly still has a few minor fantasy flavorings in the form of magic.
On paper it is such a simple change but the resulting show ends up drastically different than honestly any other isekai I’ve seen to date. The fact that the world is a game with an actual, definitive ending, or rather endings in this case, means that Catarina has a foresight of future events I’ve never seen any isekai protagonist have at their disposal. She also has this incredibly funny “war council” in her head made up of personifications of her five main personality traits that discuss what actions she should take. It should be noted, however, that Catarina, and her personalities, are rather… stupid, as well, which prevents her from fully being able to adapt to the events happening around her.
Since this is a series that takes place in a game with multiple characters you could romance, the cast is rather considerable in size. Even with that in mind, I’ve yet to see a weak character in the bunch and I highly enjoy seeing them interact with each other and especially Catarina. With there looking to be more isekai anime set in otome worlds on the horizon, My Next Life as a Villainess stands as the vanguard of a new wave in the genre, and if they are as good as this show is, we’re in for a hell of a time.
Recommended By: Aoi Yamamoto, Arcane, Doctorkev, Gugsy, hybridmink, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, Requiem, Stinolez, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
Written by: Requiem
Genre(s): Fantasy, Slice of Life, Bug Eating, Tsundere Catgirls
Synopsis: Yuuki, our protagonist, is drop-kicked into a new world by a goddess where he awakes with no memory of who he is or why he’s there. Thankfully, he meets Kokkoro, a young elf girl who looks after him; Pecorine, an energetic swordswoman who is relentlessly hungry; and Karyl, a dorky catgirl. Together this collection of goofballs form an epicurean adventurers guild for the purpose of finding and eating great food. Yes, seriously.
Why You Should Be Watching: Sometimes when it comes time to tell you, our dear readers, why you should watch a show, it can be a struggle to articulate the strengths of a particular series. However, for PrinConne, it’s pretty simple: it’s outrageously adorable, and it’s very funny.
Normally, “based on a smartphone game” would not bode well, but CyGames has proven before they can make good shows from their properties (see Rage of Bahamut: Genesis) and they did it again here. This show is stunningly animated, with a brilliant color palette and generally cheerful design aesthetic. When it comes time for an action sequence, there’s no holding back; you get some truly spectacular battle scenes. But the outstanding visuals isn’t what makes PrinConne work: it’s the characters.
You might think making your main character a monosyllabic human turnip who mostly communicates with thumbs up or sentences like “fire bad, water good” wouldn’t work, but damn if the show doesn’t pull it off. However, Yuuki is only “technically” the main character; his real role is to support the roster of deeply amusing and adorable girls in his guild (yeah it sounds like a harem, but it doesn’t function as one storywise, really). Pecorine is a blast of high energy ridiculousness, Kokkoro is cute as hell, and catgirl Karyl is the real MVP with some of the best reaction shots ever. In fact, funny facial expressions and visual gags are the best part of the show; the director was also responsible for KonoSuba, and you can definitely feel that influence here in the excellent comedic timing and flair for punchline. One could call the series “KonoSuba, if the characters were good people.”
Princess Connect is bright, beautiful to look at, funny as hell, and as good a time as you’ll spend with a show this season. How crazy is that?!
Recommended by: Gugsy, Kinksy, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Requiem, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi, Viking, Arcane
Written by: Hip Hip Jorge
Genre: Drama, Romance
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Post-collegiate Rikuo Uozumi is a melancholic loafer, drifting listlessly through life with a part-time job he’s perfectly complacent with and suffering through the pain of an unrequited love. Sing “Yesterday” For Me is a character drama focusing on him and people from his past and present all dealing with their own unique sets of anxiety and angst. The show’s focus is on the back and forth between the characters’ past, their “yesterday”, and their resolve (or lack thereof) to move forward with their lives.
Why You Should Be Watching: For starters, Sing Yesterday is one of the few shows this season that is not delayed. From the superb character acting, to its beautiful albeit melancholic atmosphere, to the grounded, mature drama the characters each struggle with - Sing Yesterday is a delight. Rikuo with his yearning for Shinako, Shinako mourning the loss of her first love, Haru (my favorite) with her desire to be seen as an adult, Rou with his insecurities living in his late older brother’s shadow - all believable and relatable ordeals. Doga Kobo normally specializes in “cute girls doing cute things,” while this is more “depressed people dealing with real shit” - not nearly as catchy but no less enjoyable.
Sing Yesterday starts with a somewhat tired trope - happy-go-lucky girl meets sullen boy, showing him he’s been in love with the wrong girl this whole time - but the show doesn’t confine itself to this gimmick. What starts out as a typical love triangle becomes more of a love quatrefoil (add even another one to the fold once you get to episode 5). Even with the obligatory “misunderstandings” polluting its premise, Sing Yesterday handles its eye-rolling moments with deft self-awareness. You see it coming, you know the awkwardness is about to rear its ugly head, yet it passes swiftly with a perfect pace that continues throughout the first five episodes. Moreover, with an unconventional run of eighteen episodes, Doga Kobo clearly has this thing mapped out - and with production seemingly finished before the new season, we can look forward to a complete and satisfying story.
Sing Yesterday is one of the finest examples of consistent characterization I’ve ever seen in a show. From its depiction of anxiety through the characters’ mannerisms, the subtlety of their indecisions showcased within their hands, the emotion displayed solely in their eyes, Sing “Yesterday” For Me brilliantly showcases what it is all about - flawed people with recognizable, believable issues. Just like how each character suffers from their own problems, never have we been more equipped to relate with having to deal with something. The melancholy atmosphere not only matches the way each character feels, but reminds us of our own world and what we all are going through. Just like the resolve of Rikuo and company, we too can persevere and push forward - looking back at our current times as our “yesterday” when it’s all said and done.
Recommended by: Gugsy, Doctorkev, Hip Hip Jorge, hybridmink, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, Arcane
Written by: TGRIP
Genre: Shonen, Fantasy, Action-Adventure, Tournament
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, VRV
Spoiler-free Synopsis: The boy known as Bam has no recollection of his life before he was discovered in the titular Tower, an impossibly large and harsh testing ground for the greatest warriors in the world. While the reward of an all-powerful wish to those who conquer the Tower is enticing to most, all Bam wants is to be with Rachel, the mysterious but kind girl who discovered him but left to climb the Tower. To be with her again, Bam too begins his journey to the top, along the way meeting new friends, competitors, and foes, and uncovering all the machinations of a world he had no idea he was even living in...
Why You Should Be Watching: Because this is a shonen series that’s all killer and no filler. Tower of God is the anime equivalent of a coffee drink that’s just six shots of espresso with a bit of creamer thrown in; it’s a pure, condensed, and somehow elegant expression of something we’ve seen before and might be used to by now, but presented as a raw show of style that makes the substance almost feel new. Even if you’re a viewer who’s been burnt out or just loathes shounen anime, this show has a damn good chance of making you go “woah” when you watch it. While Telecom Animation Film might’ve done other shows before, Tower of God is by far and away the show they’ll become known for.
Tower of God doesn’t just look good, it excels in every single aspect, from its soundtrack (composed by Made in Abyss’s Kevin Penkin), to its performances (every VA captures exactly what their character should sound like and come across as) to its writing, which is incredible in how it retools pre-existing character and tropes as approachable to newcomers while offering enough to veteran anime viewers so that it avoids feeling like something they’ve already seen. Though some of the characters might come off as basic or even boring, there’s no one that’s outright hateable, as even vanguards like MHA or Demon Slayer somehow end up with someone in their cast who ends up dragging the show down. This is the kind of show that would usually either buckle under the weight of its ambition or have material so well-worn that it’d end up forgettable, but its energetic pacing and god-like production values will keep you coming back for more. Sure, it might be style that overwhelms its substance, but so are most Lamborghinis. And who doesn’t like a Lamborghini?
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Gugsy, Doctorkev, Hip Hip Jorge, hybridmink, Kinksy, Protonstorm, Requiem, TGRIP, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi
Written By: TheMamaLuigi
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Things have been rough for Minare Koda lately. Coming off a bad breakup and suffering through a dead-end waitress job, she finds herself drunkenly ranting to Kanetsugu Matou, a complete stranger and radio station director. Before she’s aware of what happened, Matou tricks her into giving a candid monologue on the air stemming from her engaging, abrasive, yet strangely smooth voice. Thus begins Minare’s adventures in radio and her quest for love-revenge!
Why You Should Be Watching: Radio is dying. With podcasts delivering talk-radio-style banter at the tap of a screen and services like Spotify and Apple Music granting instant access to thousands upon thousands of hours of music, traditional radio’s place in our crowded consumer lifestyles is becoming increasingly obsolete. Wave, Listen to Me is a tribute to a dying art form and a commentary around what we lose, what that loss makes us, and how we carry on — and it is absolutely superb.
Right away, Wave makes its focus clear: Minare and her brash, overbearing, yet absolutely infatuating voice. Its opening, in which she narrates a duel with a bear amidst a snowy wilderness, sets the tone for the series. It is Minare’s voice actress, Riho Sugiyama, who carries the bulk of what makes Wave so outstanding. From her guttural growls as she confronts whatever man in her life dares insult her to her wails of self-pity and doubt, Minare is a character wholly cartoonish and entirely recongizeable. She is the id, ego, and superego inside all of us manifested as an aggressive, abrasive, yet undeniably beautiful woman. Like radio herself, Minare is an immediate force that one must experience first-hand to truly understand.
Aside from Minare’s voice actor, Wave’s art style blends semi-realistic character designs with bombastic, yet grounded animation to create something visually engaging and visceral. It takes rare talent for an anime studio to make a person talking into a microphone absolutely engaging, but Sunrise proves themselves again through stellar direction and a competent production. Though Wave is not a visual treat in the same ways as this season’s Princess Connect or Tower of God, it is nonetheless a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.
Wave, Listen to Me is one of the season’s best, a bellowing, yet gentle, tribute to a medium we all grew up with but rarely consider. Through its focus on the people behind the airwaves and the very human feelings injected into every broadcast, it reaffirms the notion that art is a fundamentally human thing. And in an age where companies like Disney attempt to assert assembly-line art as the future, Wave, Listen to Me offers a rebuttal by suggesting that what we lose in the death of radio is the immediacy of conversation. One-sided as it may be, there is an unmatched feeling of intimacy as we listen to Minare rant about her boyfriend yet again, calling him a “piece of shit” for breaking her heart. And in that moment, we realize what makes Wave, Listen to Me so special: we’re all that person, the piece of shit or the heartbroken ranter. Radio brings those pieces of ourselves to life, across boundaries and through our speakers.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, hybridmink, Koda, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi
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: Sci-Fantasy Action,
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A girl escapes the boring human life to become a super-powered tanuki person. Likeable characters get into impossible situations and do Trigger-ass Trigger stuff.
Why You Should Be Watching: Directed by Yoh Yoshinari, old-school Gainax alumni and creator of Little Witch Academia, BNA is what most Trigger fans expect out of their work. The theme could not be more obvious: Humans hate Beastmen and Beastmen hate Humans. Will they ever overcome their differences?! If you’re looking for a deep narrative with a nuanced take on racism, you’re probably in the wrong place — BNA is a show for lovers of bombastic characters and animation.
There are some great interactions between Michuru and the supporting cast. Her and Shiro are a fun pair to watch, and having them work apart with separate motivations often dictates the flow of an episode between two sides that culminate in the same place. I hesitate to call them straight A and B plots, but it keeps the show from being too straightforward. You can immediately tell how close Michuru is with her friend Nazuna, as well. Michuru’s motivation seems to shift entirely towards her once they meet again in the show. I really appreciate that they didn’t try to shoehorn a rivalry in here, even though their fight WOULD have been awesome.
That’s not to say the action in BNA isn’t already awesome, though with a focus more on beastial powers and raw strength than choreographed fighting. The baseball episode had me questioning if Imaishi actually took the helm for an episode. The visual gags and snappy animation style felt all too familiar to me, and I was smiling the entire time. Even when we’re taking a break from the action, characters are constantly shifting between beast and human forms, keeping things visually engaging. I’m definitely in the camp of animation over clean visuals, but there are some sexy stills in here as well (mostly close-ups of Shiro’s RBF). You just can’t help but get those KLK or Gurren Lagann vibes.
While the main cast and animation had me from start to finish, the end unfortunately left me wishing the series was a full 24 episodes. With a single cour, there was too much untapped potential for the world of Anima City. They kind of plowed right into that conclusion, almost without warning. Even though I love Trigger’s fast-paced storytelling, I wish Yoshinari nailed it in the same way he did with Little Witch Academia. Whatever the case, I was glad to be left wanting more, rather than left bored.
Recommended by: hybridmink, Protonstorm
(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.)
(Note: Delayed mid-season due to the virus.)
Written by: Koda (for), AoiYamamoto (against)
Genre: Live-action, Slice of Life, Surreal Comedy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Kaede is a young woman who dresses in the gyaru, or gal, fashion style. One night while drunk she encounters a human-sized blue dinosaur named Dino that she invites to live with her. Over time Kaede and Dino’s friendship grows as Dino learns to deal with new things in a human city.
Why You Should Be Watching: Gal & Dino is an overwhelmingly charming show with its core conceit being the slowly growing bond between the unlikely duo of Kaede and Dino. Seeing Dino deal with things such as a constant nemesis in the form of cats and experiencing stuff we take for granted, like camping, never ceases to be amusing. This show is from the same people behind Pop Team Epic, and very much like that series, Gal & Dino is structured around multiple skit segments each episode. Each of these skits are handed off to different teams to work on, so the result is a show that is incredibly creative in its execution.
With the sheer variety on display and the speed at which it goes through the skits, you should be able to find something you enjoy in this show because nothing sticks around too long. Additionally, unlike Pop Team Epic, Gal & Dino is vastly less cruel to its characters, making for a more pleasant overall experience. Lastly, I have to mention the show’s live-action segments. While the animated skits are decidedly much more of a whimsical slice of life than a straight comedy, Gal & Dino’s live-action portions, which take up a large chunk of the second half of each episode, pull a 180 and dive head first into some absolutely off the wall surrealist humor. Obviously humor is subjective, but if you found yourself enjoying Adult Swim’s live-action comedic offerings, then you should be right at home with this part of the show.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: The joke about how Kaede finds a dinosaur roommate is cute for the first two episodes but gets really old quickly. The same goes for the live action segments; it wants to be edgy and over-the-top like its spiritual ancestor Pop Team Epic (some of the staff that has worked on that series are working on this); instead, each episode just drags on too long. Both the animation and the live action would work better as separate series, not something mixed together. But I forgot these are the folks behind Pop Team Epic, after all, so logic does not exist.
This starts out as a cute little series about how a gyaru somehow winds up a roommate and should’ve stayed as a short anime. The art is so-so; Kaede looks cute but Dino looks like something drawn up by a five year old. The live action parts…other than something to do with Time Travel and Aoi Shouta (a joke from PTE), one needs to be high to understand this. Depending on whether you like to party or not, that might be a good thing.
So, basically, don’t give your time to a show that doesn’t respect it. Watch Princess Connect or My Life as a Villainess if you’re looking for a laugh. Thank you.
Written by: Doctorkev (for), TGRIP (against)
Genre: Fantasy, Furry, Perversion
Where to watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free synopsis: Shuichi Kagaya is a shy high-school student who hides his academic ability to fit in with his peers. Unfortunately, peer acceptance becomes the least of his concerns when he inexplicably transforms into a grotesque furry mascot monster, complete with enhanced sense of smell and animalistic drives. Adding to his worries is fellow student Claire Aoki who not only threatens to expose his secret if he doesn’t do her bidding but also discovers that the huge zipper down his back opens into a moist, fleshy cavity into which she can enter and pilot him like a meaty, furry mecha. Adolescent sexual maturation was never this disturbing, was it?
Why you should be watching: It’s hard to recommend this show whilst retaining some semblance of dignity as a human adult, so let’s dispense with the pleasantries. Gleipnir is fucking weird, and it is made for fucking weirdos. From the moment Claire strips off her clothes and enters Shuichi’s moist, glistening meat cavity, his posture bent forwards in submission, his cheeks glowing crimson with embarrassment while he emits noises the like of which you haven’t heard since you accidentally overheard your parents screwing late one night when they thought you were asleep, you know that, like Shuichi, you are in for one hell of a ride.
Never has a show been so completely, absolutely, entirely about sex without containing any explicitly sexual content. Yes, there is copious fanservice - mainly the camera lingering over Claire’s pubescent body (remember, she’s meant to be about 14 but looks more like 24) - and the women in this show do seem to like to disrobe at the drop of a furry hat. With glistening moistness lovingly depicted on Claire’s lithe limbs when she slithers in or out of Shuichi’s furry meat-socket, the incredibly explicitly moist sound effects complement the visual action in a way best described as synaesthetic. The animators and sound designers know exactly what they are doing, and the consummation of their work is certainly an intense experience.
Although the plot is essentially another “death game”, this is infinitely more entertaining than last season’s equivalent but bland Darwin’s Game. Gleipnir’s main characters are emotionally multi-layered and evolve beyond the primitive tropes often employed as crutches in lesser shows. Claire and Shuichi’s relationship is far from healthy in origin, but they grow to rely on one another and each utilises the other’s strengths in intelligent, organic ways. The background hunt for power-granting magic alien coins is completely extraneous to the purpose and focus of this show, which is to explore boundaries of intimacy and consent in a heightened, ridiculous setting. Uncomfortable material comes with the territory so this certainly is not suitable for everyone. However, if you are the sort of weirdo who enjoys twisted sexual metaphors, screwball humour, dark fantasy, and… umm… furry… pegging… then Gleipnir is likely the show of the season for you.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: Because this series is gross and vulgar in a way that just makes it too uncomfortable to watch. Look, I can and do like shows that explore sexuality (like Lupin the 3rd: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine) or ones that are unapologetically violent and crude (like Black Lagoon), but shows that do it for basic shock value, while having awful writing all around, is where I draw the line. Gleipnir is a show that does have fantastic animation (damn Pine Jam, you deserve better source material), but it’s a polished turd with tropes that are not just lazy but hateful. These tropes primarily being characters who’re either incredibly unoriginal or outright terrible people, depictions of women that at best rely on bad character archetypes or objectification that’s so shameless it bores the viewer, and a storyline that starts out interesting, but quickly loses its goodwill with reveals that have been done before in better shows.
I hate both of the main characters for different reasons that stem from Gleipnir’s overall piss-poor writing: Shuichi has so many common seinen protagonist pitfalls that he comes across as both irritatingly unmemorable and annoying in that he has little to no motivation of his own besides the bog-standard “I want to protect those around me.” Claire is an outright sociopath. She is not only responsible for blackmailing Shuichi into doing her bidding against his will at the show’s start but clearly enjoys inflicting pain onto others, and while one could argue she does start to show signs that she cares for him, this dynamic has too many similarities with abusive relationships for red flags not to pop up.
Simply put, Gleipnir is trash. Good-looking, well-produced trash, but ultimately trash when all is said and done. Sure, this will find fans, probably in those who miss old-school shows that gave anime its infamous reputation in the 1980s. But in this day and age, some things are much, much better left in the past.
This article was a collaboration by many members of the AniTAY community. Some wrote part of the final article, and several others took part in voting and discussion over the past couple of months.
Contributors in Alphabetical Order:
- Aoi Yamamoto
- Dark Aether
- Hip Hip Jorge
If you enjoyed this article, please check out our collaboration from last season here:
You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. To join in on the fun, check out our website, visit our official subreddit, follow us on Twitter, or give us a like on our Facebook page.