It may be a new decade but the cycle of seasonal anime is the same as ever. As always, the GoombaStomp crew is here to guide you through a selection of this season’s show after braving the great unknown. Come see what their findings are and if you missed it, be sure to check out our list of The Best Anime of Last Decade if you want even more recommendations!
(List in no particular order)
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
Director: Gekidan Inu Curry
Main Voice Actors: Momo Asakura (Iroha), Sora Amamiya (Yachiyo), Shiina Natsukawa (Tsuruno)
Making any sort of follow-up to the phenomenon that practically single-handedly kicked off the modern “dark” magical girl genre is no easy feat, but that sure isn’t stopping Magia Record from putting in a valiant effort.
Where Magia Record takes place in the established Madoka mythos, if at all, is still unclear as it follows a brand new set of magical girls as a rumor that they can be “saved” brings them to the new city of Kamihama. The story assumes the viewer has already watched the original Madoka Magica as it skims over familiar terms such as soul gems, witches, and grief seeds in favor of getting to the crux of what it’s like to be a seasoned magical girl.
While the original series’s core focus was very much on exceptions to the rules, Magia Record instead directs its attention on the day-to-day struggles of these unfortunate girls. Fans that have followed the series since the beginning may feel like it has already revealed its hand in terms of big shocks and twists, so this more subdued — almost mundane — approach to storytelling may actually work in Magia Record’s favor.
Improvements in animation techniques and technologies are immediately apparent in the show’s numerous action sequences in the first few episodes alone. Witch labyrinths are still wonderfully unique and off-putting while fight choreographies are even more flamboyant than before. More than anything, it just feels good to return to the Madoka universe after so long and Magia Record is making sure that return will be a rewarding one. (By Matt Ponthier)
Director: Ei Aoki
Main Voice Actors: Kenjirou Tsuda (Sakaido), Mao Ichimichi (Koharu), Daisuke Namikawa (Kouji)
ID: Invaded is frustrating. The series has a fertile premise: it is possible to reconstruct the psyches of people who have the intent to kill by gathering “cognition particles” from perpetrators’ previous crime scenes. Detective Sakaido submerges his consciousness into these so-called mental “wells”, deriving clues within that can be communicated to police forces as they track serial killers.
This futuristic physical manifestation of criminal psychology and mens rea legal standards is interesting sci-fi. The bifurcated structure—both tonally and stylistically— contrasts the idealized super-detective Sakaido against the psyche of the depressed Sakaido in reality. This allows for connections between the outside action and mental evidence to be discerned by the audience, adding a metatextual layer of detective puzzling. The concept intrinsically hints at fundamental ideas such as the inability to understand oneself and self-deception. There is rich potential.
But it lacks genuine thematic weight to unify the halves. The needless convolution of excessive jargon and expositional mouthpieces create distance from the events unfolding in the material and immaterial planes. The audience passively watches Sakaido piece together the truth, and while it is possible to follow the inferences and deductions, there’s no resonance. The revelations feel feeble. This undermines the character drama, with Sakaido’s internal refrain “brilliant detective” becoming a nauseating echo, rather than a caustic reminder of Sakaido’s personal losses and stasis that were the consequences of relentless commitment to work.
ID: Invaded is an interesting series that regularly feels as brain-dead as its many trepanned victims. Thankfully, it’s less lifeless as the episodes continue, so fingers crossed it becomes compelling. (By Declan Biswas-Hughes)
Studio: Felix Films
Director: Yasutaka Yamamoto
Main Voice Actors: Shinnosuke Tachibana (Kashou), Yuki Yagi (Chocola), Iori Saeki (Vanilla)
What do I even say about Nekopara?
Well, much like the visual novel, the anime adaptation has a surprisingly good production value given that it’s a fanservice show about flirting catgirls. The distinctly Japanese pop culture phenomenon of nekomimi (catgirls) has been memed to hell and back and Nekopara leans completely into those tropes. The show centers around the daily lives of six young catgirls belonging to the Minazuki family and the various antics they get into working at the cafe, Patisserie La Soleil, which are oftentimes lewd.
Nekopara is exactly what it says on the tin. As the dream project by creator Sayori, I can’t help but respect the hustle that went into what is undeniably an extremely successful franchise. All that said, however, Nekopara is most definitely not for everybody. If you buy into the premise of girls-being-cats, then you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
But for many people, the core conceit of “lewd, incestuous cats but they’re cute anime girls” might wear thin rather quickly. It’s not like Konosuba or A Sister’s All You Need where the series’s horniness is balanced out by clever writing. No, Nekopara is horny for the sake of horniness, and while there’s a certain charm to the sheer sincerity behind everything, it’s not something I can see myself committing to. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Watch on Funimation
Toilet Bound Hanako-kun
Director: Masaomi Andou
Main Voice Actor(s): Megumi Ogata (Hanako-kun), Akari Kitou (Nene), Shouya Chiba (Kou)
It’s always nice to see an anime that does something unique with the wildly popular school setting. Kamome Academy is plagued by Seven Mysteries that influence student life in various ways. They’re presented as urban legends, but for some reason, Nene Yashiro just so happens to come across each of them in turn. Ever since she turned to Hanako-kun—the Seventh Mystery—for love advice and subsequently became his assistant, her life has been a whirlwind of supernatural phenomena.
Toilet-bound Hanako-kun does a great job of keeping viewers invested by maintaining a constant air of mystery. Hanako’s past, the remaining Mysteries, and the involvement of other students at the school all work to keep things from ever getting dull. Lerche’s eye-popping visual treatment also deserves special mention; though the animation itself is never especially impressive, the richness of the art and use of color here is nothing short of gorgeous.
Most enticing of all, though, are Nene and Hanako themselves. Nene’s clumsy quest for love and acceptance by boys is heart-wrenchingly endearing and makes her surprisingly vulnerable as a protagonist. Meanwhile, Hanako—who isn’t actually restricted to the toilet—maintains a careful balance of mischievousness and sincere care for Nene’s well-being. In fact, the only real disappointment so far has been Nene’s dependence on Hanako whenever she gets in trouble. It remains to be seen if she’ll eventually be able to fight for herself, but Toilet-bound Hanako-kun provides plenty of laughs and thrills regardless. (By Brent Middleton)
Haikyu!! To The Top
Studio: Production I.G.
Director: Masako Satou
Main Voice Actors: Ayumu Murase (Shoyo), Kaito Ishikawa (Kageyama), Kouki Uchiyama (Tsukishima)
It’s been more than three years since the conclusion of the epic volleyball match that lasted an entire season in Haikyu!! and now, at last, we return to the court with Shoyo and Kageyama. Coming straight off of such a high stakes and pivotal match, I was worried this new season would come off as tame in comparison. Fortunately those fears have more than been allayed; they’ve been replaced with raw excitement.
Sports anime in general tend to focus on the effort put forward on the court/field/pool/arena in order to succeed, which is all well and good since most people come to sports anime to, well, watch sports in an anime. That’s not all it takes to get “to the top,” though, and this season of Haikyu!! demonstrates training off the court is just as important.
What goes into a proper training diet and how do you manage your intake so that your body can sufficiently recover and strengthen? How about the classroom aspect of practice? Observing how other players handle themselves on the court can provide valuable information for how to improve on your own weak points, a lesson the “hands-on” type Shoyo grapples to come to terms with this season. It provides a valuable glimpse into a different part of the growth mindset Shoyo has that has made him such a strong protagonist throughout this series. It’s because of this new kind of growth that even though there isn’t any legacy-defining matches happening right now, Haikyuu!! is still maintaining high levels of intensity and engagement. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Crunchyroll
Asteroid in Love
Studio: Doga Kobo
Director: Daisuke Hiramaki
Main Voice Actors: Tomoyo Takayanagi (Mira), Megumi Yamaguchi (Ao)
Studio Doga Kobo really, really likes its yuri overtones. Following last year’s Wataten!!, Asteroid in Love is this season’s Cute Girls Doing Cute Things show (barring Nekopara which is Cute Catgirls Doing Cute Catgirl Things).
As a young girl, protagonist Mira befriended a boy named Ao and made a promise with him to discover an asteroid. Years later the two are reunited in high school, only for Mira to discover that Ao is actually a girl. Together, the two take part in various activities with the Earth Sciences Club in the hopes that one day, they’ll finally discover their promised asteroid.
Asteroid in Love falls in the same vein as shows like Yuru Camp and Cells at Work by digging into hyper-specific topics through the vehicle of cute girls. In Asteroid’s case, that’s astronomy and geology, and each episode follows the various antics of Mira, Ao, and their friends in the Earth Sciences Club. In-between all the Hot Rock Facts and cute stargazing, Asteroids in Love digs into the relationships amongst the girls, playing up the heavy yuri-ness for both laughs and feels.
Though some jokes are worthy of a chuckle and there’s a good amount of heartfelt emotions, Asteroid in Love’s writing is otherwise fairly pedestrian. If you’re really that starved for a moeblob slice-of-life (which I admittedly was), you might get some enjoyment out of the show. Otherwise, nothing to see here. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Watch on Crunchyroll
BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense.
Studio: Silver Link
Director: Shin Oonuma and Mirai Minato
Main Voice Actors: Kaede Hondo (Maple), Ruriko Noguchi (Sally), Saori Hayami (Kasumi), Satomi Sato (Iz),
Bofuri is calming. Lush pastoral landscapes and vividly-colored caves. Birds twittering in the background. Classical melodies and soothing singing. This ideal game fantasy of friends having unhindered fun whilst exploring a virtual reality MMO is the antidote to the multitude of death games or world-ending plots with gamefied elements that have sprung up since the advent of Sword Art Online. Bofuri even presents one of the more realistic approaches to MMO in anime, with the game developers rebalancing the game when the protagonist, Maple, manages to inadvertently highlight a way to break it. There’s no stress in this story, and yet Bofuri finds a way to animate some of its fight sequences just as dramatically as any life-or-death plot. It’s perfectly relaxing in its inconsequentiality.
Or it would be, if the series didn’t have a penchant for contorting the angles to emphasize girls’ bums. To ridiculously overt degrees. Unnecessary and unfortunate fanservice and sexualization is a hazard of consuming anime, and too often one is forced to simply accept that otherwise good series are problematic in this regard, lest one ceases to watch anime altogether. Bofuri is hardly the worst offender, but when a series is nothing but airy tranquility, the increasing pervasiveness of the perviness thoroughly mars the experience. (By Declan Biswas-Hughes)
Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It
Director: Tooru Kitahata
Main Voice Actors: Sora Amamiya (Himuro), Yuuma Uchida (Yukimura)
In many ways, Science Fell in Love is the antithesis to last year’s Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Instead of a couple trying to prove to each other that they don’t love each other, here we have a couple of science nerds trying to systematically verify they are. Instead of a game of 4D chess and subterfuge, Yukimura and Himuro cooperate with each other because they want to prove their feelings. Instead of trying to trap the other side with the implications of an event, here everything is ruled by cold, hard numbers. The result is another wonderfully entertaining romcom featuring a lovably helpless couple.
In their quest to scientifically define the threshold for when someone is and is not objectively in love, these university students run all manner of experiments that run the gamut of absurdity. Along the way they employ various aspects of experimental design such as null hypotheses, p-values, and proper controls; these are things that make a science type like myself giddy to see in an anime. That said, their explanations are often either overcomplicated or oversimplified, so don’t expect to be learning much about the scientific method that you didn’t already know.
At the end of the day, though, Yukimura and Himuro are just a pure couple that makes your heart smile despite their awkwardness. In terms of a romcom to satisfy your saccharine glucose intake for the season, this is the one. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll
Somali and the Forest Spirit
Director: Kenji Yasuda
Main Voice Actor(s): Inori Minase (Somali), Daisuke Ono (Golem)
A quick glance at the first few minutes of Somali and the Forest Spirit will tell you nearly everything you need to know about the series thus far. It’s a straightforward, gentle tale of a Golem and his journey to reunite a little human girl who he found in the forest one day with her parents. Much like last year’s If It’s For My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat a Demon Lord, the core hook is the cuteness of the daughter (Somali, in this case) and how wholesome her relationship is with her adoptive father (the Golem).
Somali and the Forest Spirit hits both of these points without fail, and can at times be both delightful and cozy. Though the origin of how they became so close still remains largely unclear, the genuineness of their bond plays out in the most heartwarming—if not predictable—of ways. That said, it’s tough to shake the sense of dread that’s always looming in the background; it’s clear early on that the duo won’t be able to remain together forever regardless of whether or not they find Somali’s birth parents.
Therein lies the conflict plaguing Somali and the Forest Spirit. Though the fantasy world itself is admirably fleshed out, the final resolution already seems set in stone. It’s difficult to invest oneself in a relationship that seems destined to end in tragedy from the second episode. For all the adorable moments on display here, each is slightly corrupted by a tinge of sadness as viewers wait for the other shoe to drop. Whether or not the show ultimately played its hand too early remains to be seen. (By Brent Middleton)
Rating: Wait and See
Watch on Crunchyroll.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Studio: Science Saru
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Main Voice Actors: Sairi Itou (Asakusa), Mutsumi Tamura (Kanamori), Misato Matsuoka (Mizusaki)
From the team behind Devilman Crybaby, Ping Pong the Animation, and Tatami Galaxy comes Keeps Your Hands Off Eizouken!, an anime that celebrates anime, warts and all. Eizouken tells the story of three ambitious high school girls who’ve set out to create their own original animation movies. The show completely relies on the dynamic between the main trio, and it works extremely well.
There’s Midori Asakusa, a talented environmental and material artist whose creativity is matched only by her energy and social ineptitude; Tsubame Mizusaki, a charismatic teenage model from a rich family who wants nothing more than to be a character animator; and finally, Sayaka Kanamori, a creatively shrewd money-minded schemer, and the glue that holds Asakusa’s and Mizusaki’s wide-eyed dreaming together.
Eizouken functions as both a love letter and a stark analysis of the craft that goes into animation. Certainly, when we think of animation our minds go to the artists and their talent. However, little do people consider the amount of effort involved in the production process as a whole, whether that’s designing concepts, making compromises, or pitching your ideas to secure funding. The titular Eizouken is the little animation club that could, working against the odds to prove to everyone that these three crazy girls have something that’s worth showing to the world.
Directed by legendary anime figure Masaaki Yuasa, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! breathes life into author Sumito Owara’s vision of artists figuring out how to be artists. There’s a levity behind everything, a wild sense of fun grounded in reality. Eizouken is about every single step of the creative journey: the hopeful beginning, the difficult road, and the triumphant end. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Crunchyroll
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe
Main Voice Actors: Yoshiki Nakajima (Licht), Rina Honnizumi (Hina), Shizuka Itou (Nana)
Plunderer has a fascinating world and setting that is unfortunately wasted on pandering fanservice. The idea is that everyone born into the world has a “count” somewhere on their body that goes up and down depending on actions unique to each person. Not only do those with higher counts have command over those with lower, but if one’s count drops all the way to zero then they are dragged to the abyss, never to be seen again.
There’s a lot of potential with this setup that just doesn’t pan out and instead focuses on the main character’s downright sexual harassment of women. Even when he isn’t chasing skirts the story has no clear goal or objective making it as boring as much as it’s sometimes painful.
That’s a damn shame too considering how strong of a second episode Plunderer has, packing some nice emotional payoffs in a tight twenty-minute package. It doesn’t make up for the chore the rest of the show has become, though, and unfortunately relegates Plunderer to the “missed opportunities” pile. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Not Recommended
Watch on Funimation
Smile Down the Runway
Director: Nobuyoshi Nagayama
Main Voice Actors: Yumiri Hanamori (Chiyuki), Natsuki Hanae (Ikuto), Junichi Yanagida (Hajime), Ai Kayano (Kokoro)
Chiyuki has always dreamed of walking down the runway of Paris Fashion Week under her father’s agency, Mille Neige. For years, she had labored under the presumption that she would one day join the long, lithe models she so admired. When the curse of genetics stunts her growth, however, Chiyuki is deemed to have an improper figure and is cast out of Mille Neige. Still, she holds onto the impossible dream, and upon meeting her timid classmate and fashion designer hobbyist, Ikuto, Chiyuki spies a narrow path towards her longshot ideal.
Stripped of its fashion accoutrements, Smile Down the Runway has the same appeal as the premise of many super-powered shounen sports anime series: an ill-suited person faces immediate rejection as they ascend to the pinnacle of their chosen profession. The universality in that struggle makes it gauche to force a comparison with approachable masculinity, but Smile Down the Runway uses the common theme of self-belief overwhelming the odds deliberately.
Fashion is a vector that allows subtle examination of gender roles, but the series’ strongest juxtaposition is the socioeconomic disparity between Chiyuki and Ikuto. As the central relationship and friendship evolves, attention is paid to the psychological effects of class struggles, arriving at empathic growth. In this way, Chiyuki’s confident brash forcefulness and Ikuto’s bashful humbleness avoids tedious archetypes, becoming engagingly complementary. The series further sets itself apart from the milieu by framing this fashion industry story in a complex father-daughter relationship, with Chiyuki’s desire for parental approval tied directly to modeling. As such, Smile Down the Runway is a well-tailored series that anyone could comfortably slip into. (By Declan Biswas-Hughes)
Seton Academy: Join the Pack
Studio: Studio Gokumi
Director: Fumiyuuki Gou
Main Voice Actors: Haruki Ishiya (Jin), Hina Kino (Ranka), Yume Miyamoto (Hitomi)
Throw a human who hates animals into a school filled with sentient animals and see what happens. Oh but don’t worry, all the female animals are actually cute animal girls so this is still an anime. Why is this the case? Who cares, it’s time to learn animal facts.
Seton Academy exudes this kind of manic energy akin to being locked in a small room full of whaling chimpanzees. Much like the animals it features, the show lacks the attention span to focus on any one thing for too long and flits from gag to gag at a breakneck pace. This humor that relies on the animalistic nature of its characters is hit or miss, ranging from clever incorporations of unique traits, such as a lion not knowing the first thing to wooing a girl besides being strong, to the cringey uncomfortable, such as a koala being reminded of her mother by eating poop.
Either way, chances are you’ll be picking up new facts about various animals you had no idea about, a la Kemono Friends. Each episode has been inching closer and closer to fun humor and the wild cast has its charm points but this animal can safely be left in the kennel. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll
Studio: Brain’s Base
Director: Keiji Gotou
Main Voice Actors: Akari Kitou (Kotoko), Mamoru Miyano (Kuro), Misato Fukuen (Saki)
High-schooler Kotoko has been infatuated with university student Kuro for two years. Kuro is taken aback when precocious Kotoko propositions him, but is even more flabbergasted when the disabled girl reveals she mediates between spirits as their god of wisdom. Although Kuro is reticent to tolerate Kotoko any further, their meeting may not be entirely coincidental, because Kuro has a few secrets of his own…
The homophone of In/Spectre sounding like “Inspector” encapsulates the series quite well. It suggests the little flourishes that make In/Spectre pleasantly watchable; the series delights in reversals in dialogue and expectations, as well as playing with perspectives and versions of events. Moreover, the protagonists quickly intrigue each other and the audience by actively advocating the choice to believe in uncanny truths or various postulations. Through simple, almost Socratic dialogue, In/Spectre builds episodic mysteries, with a structure that evokes the deduction explanations of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot stories. It’s an atypical take on the general detective story approach, elevated by crisp dialogue and detailed animation and noticeable use of shadow and shading.
Where In/Spectre stumbles is that it sometimes falls too heavily into exposition with dissipated dramatic tension; it’s like reading dossiers of evidence from case-files. Also, Kotoko’s disabilities are fairly distinct for anime in that they are physical impositions (she has a limping gait), but the series still falters in the execution: the pupil in her glass eye dilates and her leg prosthetic has an impossible articulation range. These are minor quibbles, but In/Spectre thus follows the trope of disabilities simply being sacrifices for superpowers. The inaccurate animations tarnish the effectiveness. (By Declan Biswas-Hughes)
Watch on Crunchyroll
Director: Yuuki Ogawa
Main Voice Actors: Miyu Tomita (Crem), Junji Majima (Stunk), Yuusuke Kobayashi (Zel)
In a bid to push the line separating ecchi and hentai further than ever before, Interspecies Reviewers is a show about a group of competent adventurers going around to the various brothels of different races and “reviewing” the experience. With a sexual content warning slapped across the screen right off the bat, it’s as raunchy as it sounds, if not moreso.
The worst part about the whole experience is how rational it actually is. An elf revving his engines for a 70 year old human over an 800 year old elf because her mana is “fresher” is oddly believable, and that lends the show a distinct kind of twisted sense of humor that almost successfully distracts you from its primary objective of lewd. With the reviewing party also consisting of different races — including a halfling, werebeast, and a lamia — there’s no end to the creative interpretations of our primal rituals making the series bizarrely mystifying.
Watching Interspecies Reviewers is like being entranced by a Siren’s song (which I would not be surprised is a race that appears eventually). You know it will ultimately lead to your own destruction, but morbid curiosity keeps you watching anyway. (By Matt Ponthier)
Director: Masato Jinbo
Main Voice Actors: Yumiri Hanamori (Nadeshiko), Nao Toyama (Rin), Sayuri Hara (Ogaki), Aki Toyosaki (Inuyama), Rie Takahashi (Ena)
If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, Yuru Camp is a definitive favorite here at Goomba Stomp. As such, the last two years have been complete torture. Although the series has been confirmed both a movie and second season, little has come in the way of release dates. Room Camp is the first new piece of Yuru Camp animation to come out in a long while and it’s both wonderfully endearing and extremely frustrating.
Room Camp consists of three-minute vignettes that follow the camping club cast in typical slice-of-life fashion. Episodes cover a variety of topics related to the outdoors, from canned tuna as a distraction against wild animals to the local “Mt. Fujis” that can be found throughout Japan.
While it’s great to see the gang again, Room Camp episodes are frustratingly short. Yuru Camp’s immense appeal is how you can settle into a comfy, cozy 23-minute episode as Rin and co. explore the many facets of camping life. Room Camp doesn’t give you much room to breathe, but in this anime camping drought I’ll take whatever I can get. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Recommended (watch Yuru Camp first)
Watch on Crunchyroll
The Case Files of Jeweler Richard
Director: Tarou Iwasaki
Main Voice Actors: Takahiro Sakurai (Richard), Yuuma Uchida (Seigi)
Typically in anime (and many media for that matter) jewelry stores are little more than a setpiece for a heist to take place, the jewels inside prized for their monetary value and not much else. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard takes a look at the overlooked, though, and examines the many and varied reasons why people purchase these splendorous stones at such exorbitant prices.
Each episode features a new customer visiting the titular Richard’s shop, Etranger, in search of certain gemstones. Along the way, there are plenty of gemmology facts that reveal just how vast the field actually is and why someone would dedicate their life to its studies. Meanwhile, the clients’ reasons for seeking out these shiny rocks are many and varied and make up the crux of what makes the show such an engaging watch.
Each customer’s story is presented like a mystery, with Richard gleaning what information he can to help them make an informed decision. If anything, though, these appointments are more like life counseling sessions in how Richard strives to get to the bottom of what exactly a gemstone means to this person. Strong emotions are often attributed to jewelry — both positive and negative — and so far each customer’s story has been made more heartfelt because of that. (By Matt Ponthier)
Watch on Crunchyroll