Winter 2017's anime selection is a desert. Out of the nearly 50-title lineup Kotaku East’s Brian Ashcraft detailed in his seasonal guide, I found only four anime I can recommend.
It’s disappointing. There’s a special pleasure in breathlessly telling your friends, “There’s this new anime and it will blow your fucking mind.” Over the last few years, I could do that with Mob Psycho, Madoka Magica, Space Dandy and a handful of others. I can’t recommend this season’s Hand Shakers, in which a young girl will die if she lets go of the protagonist’s hand. Yes, he has to wash her. I found the “novelty” of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, where a huge dragon transforms into a big-bosomed maid, hard to watch, despite its moments of good humor (to Dragon Maid’s credit, my housemate loves it).
With lowered standards, I tried out less niche titles like Interviews with Monster Girls. It’s about a biology professor whose passion is studying demi-humans. Just moments after he says he’s never met any demi-humans, several happen to crop up in his school, and so on. It’s watchable, but not anything to write home about, just like Saga of Tanya the Evil, about a very small girl who is also a military powerhouse.
With all that out of the way, below are the four titles I can recommend from the Winter, 2017 anime season. It’s a deviation from our “Five Must-Watch” series, but those are the times we’re in!
Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age
Where to Watch: Amazon
Plot Summary: Two high school students, boyfriend and girlfriend, explore their physical intimacy and emotional boundaries. The kicker is that they’re each in love other other people. Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya are open about how each is a replacement for their true love, and how they project their desires onto each other for comfort and sanity.
Why You Should Watch It: It’s thoughtful, but difficult. The show tackles coming-of-age themes with surprising wisdom and tenderness. At times, long kisses are hard to watch when you know Hanabi and Mugi are each imagining different lovers.
Genre: Magical Girl, Comedy
Where to Watch: Netflix
Plot Summary: A rag-tag collection of girls at the prestigious Luna Nova Magical Academy learn to fly on brooms and cast spells while using each other as comedic foils and confidants. The protagonist, Atsuko Kagari (“Akko”) went there after being inspired by Shiny Chariot, a magical witch whom some consider to be a fraud. Akko is not herself a competent witch, but after a lot of trial-and-error, learns a few tricks that get her out of sticky situations.
Why You Should Watch It: After the franchise’s wildly successful 30 and hour-long films, Trigger released this TV series on Netflix. It’s a light-hearted series with some hilarious characters and top-notch animation.
Studio: Silver Link
Genre: Thriller, Sci-fi
Plot Summary: Takuru Miyashiro investigates a string of horrible, bloody deaths on internet chat rooms and around Tokyo, which was rebuilt after an earthquake. He’s also a high schooler who runs his school newspaper club. Over time, he and his staff learn of supernatural occurrences tied to the murders and struggle to wrap their minds around the case.
Why You Should Watch: It’s a well-paced, absolutely terrifying series with just the right amount of gore.
Genre: Political Drama
Plot Summary: Jean Otus, a stoic, cigarette-smoking inspector, is the deputy commander of the ACCA Inspection Agency, which roots out corruption in other government agencies.
Why You Should Watch It: First, I love the soundtrack. Second, I appreciate that it’s understated. Jean is pretty damn aloof, but it’s definitely fitting for a guy who works in an inspection department. Sure, it’s a little boring sometimes. And I wouldn’t argue it’s a “must-watch,” per say. But Acca is a coherent, respectable workplace drama that accomplishes what it sets out to do.
There you have it. Let me know your must-watch anime or recommendations in the comments!