Having reached the halfway point of the Summer anime season, most series currently airing have settled into their groove. For those out there for whom forty-seven new shows are a bit too much to stomach, we at Kotaku East are here to offer our recommendations for what we feel are the cream of the crop.
In making this list, we have spent the past several weeks watching all the fan favorites as well as several other series.
Bear in mind that just because your favorite series this season isn’t here, that doesn’t disqualify it as a solid show. These are simply the five at the top of our list.
Current Episode: 6 (of 13)
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: When a popular fantasy MMORPG shuts down its servers, one guild leader, the skeleton mage, Momonga, finds himself transported to a real fantasy world trapped inside the body of his avatar. His guild’s fortress has been transported to an unfamiliar world and the inhabiting NPC characters gain sentience and look to Momonga as their supreme ruler–an overlord as it were.
With his extensive knowledge of magic and powerful, fanatic minions following his every whim, Momonga continues to roleplay the part of the evil overlord to the extent that domination of this new world is not an entirely unappealing option.
Why You Should Watch It: Put plainly, Overlord is fun. It’s damn fun. It’s a fantastic power fantasy, comedy, and adventure all wrapped in one with likable characters and a thoroughly enjoyable world that anyone who has played a fantasy MMORPG will instantly be able to latch onto.
The story itself is also well-paced and engrossing, taking its time to set things up and let them play out in a convincingly organic manner.
Most enjoyable of all is the protagonist, Momonga, who plays both the straight man and the plot’s logistical center. Throughout, Momonga is constantly experimenting and testing the rules of the new world he inhabits in an intelligent and analytical manner–like a real human being in his situation would. That and the fact that, as a level 100 character, he is so ridiculously overpowered that it makes for an entertaining and enthralling ride.
Current Episode: 6 (of 12)
Genre: Crime, Action
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: In a crime-ridden city filled with mafia, prostitution, and corruption, two “Handymen” live their daily lives, taking care of jobs even the worst lowlives won’t go near.
Things take a turn however when, after cleaning up a new gang that was attempting to move in, the duo decide to take in a witness to their handiwork.
Why You Should Watch It: From the start, the series is high-octane grit with some great, bloody action. Gangsta. portrays a dark world with heartless monsters dressed as people, and quasi-supermen bound by Asimov’s laws of robotics.
Aside from the gritty action, the anime also tells an interesting and compelling story about its two protagonists, Worick Arcangelo, the cheerful, intellectual pragmatist, and Nicolas Brown, the deaf mass murderer. The friendship the two share is as complex and interesting as the world itself, all which mix together to make an almost hypnotically entertaining action-adventure.
Watch It If You Like: Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon, Jormungand
Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist
Current Episode: 6 (of 12)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: After 16 years of strict censorship laws banning all lewd and sexual material along with coarse language, Japan has become the most moral and inoffensive country in the world.
However, the ban against anything erotic, while cleansing the minds of the populace, has done its job too well. The resulting is a society where children have no understanding of biological reproduction and the feelings and emotions that accompany puberty–something that the terrorist organization “SOX” seeks to rectify.
Why You Should Watch It: Underneath a hot, sticky spray of crude and childish humor, Shimoneta is one of the smartest anime this season. The entire series is a hard, penetrating commentary on censorship and the dangers of sterilizing a society in the name of healthy upbringing–i.e., protecting children from everything prepares them for nothing.
When it isn’t making bleeped jokes and mosaicked/covered visual gags or double entendres, the anime is full of entertaining moments showing a society full of people who are completely clueless as to their own biological chemistry. Throughout, Shimoneta tests the limits of what is acceptable, while simultaneously questioning the existence of such limits, making for a poignant series that is cleverly both mature and immature at the same time.
Watch It If You Like: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Seitokai Yakuindomo
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Current Episode: 7 (of 12)
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: A millennium ago, The Saint of the Single Flower saved the world and banished a mighty evil power. The Saint prophesized the evil’s return as well as the emergence of six heroes who would be chosen to banish it again. Since then, twice the evil has returned and twice six heroes have defeated it.
Now, as evil has arisen again, a third generation of heroes gather to defeat it once more—this time, however, there are seven instead of six...
Why You Should Watch It: From the start, Rokka focuses on world building through lore, rather than relying solely on its premise. What results is an intriguing mystery set in a robust world with an atmosphere and history that draws the viewer in.
By the time the series brings about the major plot hook–that there are seven heroes instead of six – the groundwork has been firmly set, making the mystery genuinely alluring with several well-established characters, any of whom could be the faker.
Watch It If You Like: Record of Lodoss War
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
Gatchaman Crowds Insight
Current Episode: 7 (of 13)
Genre: Superhero, Sci-Fi
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: After the events of the first series, a terrorist group arises attempting to turn the public opinion against the existence of the Crowds–a program which turns normal people into invincible superpowered beings–by using Crowds for destructive purposes.
While society’s views waver, a new Gatchaman is chosen and an alien visitor arrives—one hoping to unite society for a better, pure democratic world.
Why You Should Watch It: Much like the previous series, Gatchaman Crowds Insight is a sharp, multi-faceted sociological commentary on collective behavior/mob mentality and what it means to be a good person—under the guise of a superhero show. Additionally, Insight looks at how mass opinion can be swayed and controlled with a focus on the 20-60-20 rule–the theory that in any large group of people, 20% are “positives”, 20% are “negatives”, and the remaining 60% are normal people who can be swayed by either the positives or the negatives.
Often in anime, the idea will be brought up of how to solve all conflict by unifying people, either figuratively, or quite literally. Generally this idea is portrayed as a logical ideal, defeated not through rational argument, but simply because the opposition says “I don’t wanna” like a spoiled child. Gatchaman Crowds Insight instead takes away the black and white of the issue and smartly shows the grays of the issue giving the viewer much food for thought.
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
Now that you’ve read my recommendations for what anime you should be watching this summer season, you may wonder why your favorite series is absent. There are four potential reasons: (1) I think it is terrible (or at least not quite as good as the five above); (2) it is the second/third/fourth season of an anime—and I haven’t seen the previous seasons; (3) it is an anime continuing from last season; or (4) it simply didn’t cross my radar.
But if you feel I have left out an anime that’s something special, feel free to give me a heads up in the comments and tell me why you feel that way. Or pop over to Talk Amongst Yourselves: ANI-TAY and post your thoughts on your favorites.
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To contact the author of this post, write to cogitoergonihilATgmail.com or find him on Twitter @tnakamura8.