My initial read on Winter 2024 is, in a nutshell, “all or nothing”. There are some very big (for me) shows on the docket. Series with lots of buildup and anticipation, which figure to be Top 10 contenders (at least) when the year is reckoned up. But move past that, and I don’t see a whole lot to be honest. Anime seasons can always surprise you, but to be honest in my experience they usually don’t.
Anime production bloat continues more or less unabated, so volume isn’t the issue. Winter is smaller than this fall season, but that’s always the case – and fall ended up being something like 65 series (way too many). At this writing we’re looking at about 51 winter series, which is still a very high number for a winter (or summer) anime season. The infrastructure of the industry is obviously not capable of handling this sort of year-round load, as the various production collapses and black company issues would tell you. But with Kadokawa looking to eventually churn out 10 or more LN adaptations per season leading the way, the demand for more cheap and generic anime has never been higher.
For me any season that has BokuYaba could never be truly weak – that’s how much I adore this series, and this season will adapt some incredible material. We have a chance to finally get a decent Mizukami Satoshi adaptation (so far it looks okay), and to call that overdue would be a massive understatement. And speaking of overdue, there can’t be too many manga which seemed obvious candidates for anime that had a longer or more inexplicable wait than Dungeon Meshi. So yeah, there’s absolutely quality at the top here – there haven’t been all that many seasons with three (or more) in the “Highest Expectations” tier in recent years.
After that it’s a pretty steep drop-off. In the end I’m previewing 16 shows, which almost hits my historic benchmark of one-third of the schedule. But after the top five there’s not much here that really screams “potential” at me (though Yubisaki to Renren is certainly a possibility), and the “Mid-table” is as small as I can remember. We also don’t have any true kaijuu series premiering for the first time in a while. So on balance I think it could be a fairly quiet season on multiple fronts, though some of the stuff that happens in BokuYaba is going to break the internet. And there’s no succor coming from the OVA/ONA/theatrical side – winter is often quiet on those fronts, and 2024 looks to be no exception.
As to genre, we’re seeing less and less variation from season to season and that trend continues here. I don’t know whether the percentage of indistinguishable LN adaptations is actually rising or my resistance is just wearing down, but it sure seems like there are more than ever. It’s worth appreciating the fact that we do at least have some variety – romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and a couple of originals that look genuinely quirky. Nothing of interest to me on the sports front, but that’s hardly an aberration in the 2020’s.
Let’s move on to Winter 2024. As usual, the poll is in the sidebar – please go vote!
Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu Season 2 – Shin-Ei: (PV) BokuYaba is very personal for me. I just love it and its two main characters that much. So to see it really start to explode in popularity is pretty surreal. You do feel a certain bittersweet tug at what was kind of a shared secret being revealed to the wider world, but more than anything I want as many people as possible to experience this masterpiece. The absolute best way to do that is through the manga, but the anime will get you most of the way there (and in some respects, it deepens the experience).
As far as I’m concerned Sakurai Norio is doing nothing less than reinventing the manga romcom with Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu. What we saw with the anime followed the pattern with the manga to the letter. An initial resistance and low aggregator ratings, with much hate directed at Kyoutarou. Then, as events progressed and the true nature of the story and characters emerged, those that stuck around started to buy in. And eventually word of mouth did its thing and by the events that closed the first season, a big audience had coalesced around the series.
As the old saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The material that will be covered by the second season is phenomenal (as it what comes after that), with multiple chapters that will impact in a major way. Unless something unusual happens (like saving the last arc for a theatrical film) manga readers know exactly where director Akagi Hiroaki and Shin-Ei will end this season. And hoo boy, what a final act that will be. No more or less than some of the stuff building up to it, but it’s going to hit like the asteroid that made Crater Lake.
The question of pacing is interesting, because at this point it does seem pretty likely that a third season will eventually happen. Clearly the second cour was greenlit before the first aired, a show of faith in the commercial potential of the material (and the commercial success of the manga). All signs have been good though – a nice spike in manga sales, good Blu-ray numbers, huge social media presence and lots of merchandising tie-ins. If the second season follows the pattern of the first (and it would have a perfect endpoint) we’d probably be looking at two years before a third could be produced. If they chose to use the last arc as a film and padded out the season with some original material, that would help bridge that gap. I kind of doubt that will happen but it’s not impossible.
Sengoku Youko – White Fox: (PV) Anime has been very unkind to legendary mangaka Mizukami Satoshi. And to all his fans. For almost two decades it ignored him altogether, apart from a flirtation with a Gainax adaptation of Hoshi no Samidare (that would have had a Pillows soundtrack and likely been beyond epic, but collapsed when the Pillows’ label refused to allow their music to be licensed). He got a one-cour original series in Planet With, but his manga remained unadapted until last year’s Naz hatchet job on Samidare – without a doubt one of the worst manga adaptations ever made (never mind of a great series).
Now, as 2024 dawns, fans of the Water God dare hope that our long drought may finally be coming to an end. This adaptation of Sengoku Youko from White Fox has a staff that could be described as solid more than exceptional, and the previews don’t look exactly lavish. But they look just fine, and that – along with solid – would elevate Sengoku Youko galaxies above what Biscuit Hammer was. This is such a great source material that even a workmanlike adaptation should be enough to lock down a top ten spot for any year, and slake the parched throats of Mizukami’s fans.
Sengoku Youko, like most of Mizukami’s works, is a fantasy-driven adventure that swings between rousing action, heartbreak, and hilarious comedy. I don’t consider it the equal of Spirit Circle but that’s about as high a bar as you can get – it’s a great manga. It’s set (unsurprisingly) during Japan’ Warring States era, in a world where powerful youkai called katawara and fearsome warrior monks who exterminate them roam the land. The protagonists are a mix of the two (I’ll just leave that there), and a uniformly interesting and endearing bunch of goofs. Nobody writes those characters quite like Mizukami does.
The casting looks good, the adaptation is getting a theoretically sufficient 37 episodes (veteran writer Hanada Jukki refused to adapt it unless it got three cours) and all signs point to this being the series that finally breaks the Mizukami-anime curse. But his fans have too much scar tissue to take anything for granted.
Dungeon Meshi – Trigger: (PV) The most inexplicable thing about the Dungeon Meshi adaptation is how long it took to arrive. The manga is a big seller and a critical smash (it was nominated for the Manga Taishou four straight years starting in 2016). Folks including me have been predicting this for literally several years, but for whatever reason (perhaps waiting for the manga to end) the stars never aligned until now.
Given that Trigger animated a promo for the manga a couple years ago (which just stoked the rumor mill that much more), it can come as a surprise to no on that they’re the studio behind the anime. I’ve warmed to Trigger some as they’re diversified beyond Imaishi Hiroyuki’s predictable style, though absent the CM they wouldn’t have been the first to come to my mind for Dungeon Meshi. That said, the previews look solid and director Miyajima Yoshihiro comes out of Amemiya Akira’s Gridman-Dynazenon wing of the studio (easily my favorite face of Trigger).
Dungeon Meshi is a clever twist on the RPG fantasy trope, following a party of adventurers as they traverse a massive dungeon full of monsters of all shapes and sizes, elves, orcs, and other races which will be very familiar to fans of D & D or Lord of the Rings. All of the heroes’ party are wonderfully quirky, most prominent to the story being protagonist Laios’ obsession with tasting monster meat in as many forms as possible. I love all these goofs but the halfling Chilchuck is my favorite (he’s one of manga’s all-time great snark masters).
It’s been a growing trend in anime these last couple of years for manga to get adaptations after they finish, and that’s the case here (it just ended) – maybe that’s what the production committee was waiting for. It seems likely we’re going to get a full adaptation – I mean, anything else would be pretty pointless – but with only two cours confirmed, the possibility of rushed pacing can’t be ruled out. The manga is 12 volumes and two cours would be a serious crunch – hopefully the franchise is a big enough seller to get it the three it needs (like Sengoku Youko).
Kingdom 5th Season – OLM, Pierrot, Studio Signpost: (PV) Surely there’s not all that much that need be said about Kingdom at this point. The Tezuka Grand Prize-winning manga is a colossus, its 70 volumes having surpassed 100 million copies sold (and that was a while ago) – which puts it in the all-time sales top 20. This is the fifth season for the anime, so if you’re watching at this point it seems very likely you’ve been on-board for a while.
Yasuhira Hara’s sprawling epic of the Chinese Warring States Period always delivers in terms of plot, usually in terms of character, and sometimes in terms of visuals. It’s a classic Pierrot adaptation in that it faithfully captures the tenor of the source material but rarely impresses with its production values. Still, it’s easy to forget just how grisly things were in the first cour of the first season, and we’ve come a long way from there. For a long time now the animation and art has been the epitome of “good enough” – and with a source material this strong, that’s all it needs to be.
Yubisaki to Renren – Ajia-do: (PV) It seems as if shoujo adaptations are rarer than ever these days, so any we get are worthy of consideration. And Yubisaki to Renren is an extremely well-regarded one. As if that weren’t enough it’s a college romance, which is another pretty unicorn-y specimen for anime these days. The staff looks good rather than great but I’ve liked some of the adaptation work Ajia-do has done.
A Sign of Affection is the story of a hearing-impaired university student with an extremely limited social circle and a multi-lingual friend of a friend who fascinates her with his worldly ways and his lack of concern over her impairment. I don’t have any experience with the manga but almost everything I hear is positive, so I go into this one with a fair amount of optimism.
Gekkan Mousou Kagaku – OLM Team Yoshioka: (PV) An original fantasy series helmed by Gintama director Miyawaki Chizuru is enough of an oddball to be interesting on paper. It’s the story of the eccentric crew of a paranormal monthly magazine who spend most of their time in the coffee shop on the first floor of their office building. Without any firm reason to I feel a certain intrigue about this one, which I guess makes it a sleeper.
Kyuujitsu no Warumono-san – Shin-Ei: (PV) Yep, Shin-Ei is working on something else this season too. It’s an adaptation of a pretty well-reviewed web manga about what an alien takes with destroying Earth does during his downtime, and the band of super-Sentai heroes tasked with defeating him. Another one that might have just a hint of a sleeper vibe to it.
Majo to Yajuu – Yokohama Animation Lab: (PV) I’m not familiar with the manga Majo to Yajuu is based on, but it gets very good scores on the aggregator sites for what that’s worth. It’s also a seinen, which in and of itself doesn’t guarantee anything but improves the odds somewhat anyway. A pretty experienced and seemingly competent staff is headed by director Hamana Takayuki.
Story-wise we’re in horror fantasy territory here, with the premise following what seems to be a vampire and werewolf who travel the world fighting witches (but don’t hold me to that). Again, I’m flying blind here, but with reviews this good you’d at least hope there’s something worthwhile going on with Majo to Yajuu.
Hikari no Ou 2nd Season – Signal.MD: (PV): I’d be hard-pressed to think of more than a couple series which disappointed me more after their premiere than Hikari no Ou. It started out brilliantly but quickly started to lose steam, and by the end of the first season I was sort of hanging on by a thread. Often comically bad production values were certainly a big factor, but there was a lot of plot drift and strange choices in the writing. Nevertheless it’s high fantasy with a score by Kawai Kenji, so it’s impossible for me to not at least hope it bounce back somewhat.
Ao no Exorcist: Shimane Illuminati-hen – Studio VOLN: (PV) One of shounen’s old chestnuts returns for another dance with anime (three cours confirmed). I liked the first Ao no Exorcist season quite a lot – and the movie even more. But the “Kyoto” season was a total snooze for me, which leaves me pretty ambivalent about this update. But knowing that this series can be very good at its absolute best, I’ll certainly give Shimane Illuminati-hen a shot.
Bucchigiri?! – MAPPA: (PV) Expectations levels for any original anime stem from the writer before anything else. And in this case that’s Kishimoto Taku, who has quite a strong track record in that regard (91 Days certainly ranks as one of the most well-written original of the past decade in anime). One feels sort of disinclined to support MAPPA shows on any level, but they’re not going anywhere and that’s a fact. This one is the story of a bunch of delinquents, and demons are involved – beyond that we don’t know a whole lot. Kishimoto’s name on the masthead makes Bucchigiri?! a prospect.
Metallic Rouge – Bones: (PV) It kinda feels like it’s been a slow year for Bones, but they should have a bigger presence in 2024. It starts with Metallic Rouge, a series I frankly wouldn’t be previewing in the hands of a lesser studio. But it isn’t, and sci-fi originals are certainly right up Bones’ alley. This one features a couple of cute android girls solving mysteries on Mars, and really doesn’t look especially compelling. But it has some big names attached as usual for Bones, like RahXephon director Izubuchi Yutaka writing and Hori Motonobu – who’s featured at pretty much every legendary studio in anime history – as director. Modest expectations, but some obvious upside.
Ore dake Level Up na Ken – A-1 Pictures: (PV) My track record with manhwa hasn’t been especially great to be honest. I did like Tower of God before it jumped the shark, but none of the others I’ve tried have really won me over. But Solo Leveling is insanely popular and seems to be regarded as one of the best of the lot. It’s the story of “hunters” who battle magical beasts who’re tormenting the world (not exactly a novel concept), and one especially weak one who’s left with a choice to level up or die. Manhwa are only going to get more important as a source for anime adaptations, and I’ll give this one a shot. Hopefully it gets a better treatment than ToG did in its first season.
Momochi-san Chi no Ayakashi Ouji – Drive: (PV) Shoujo fantasy about an orphan who inherits a mansion, only to find out it’s the tollbooth between the human realm and the underworld. Pretty much a shot in the dark here but the manga is generally well-reviewed, the director is experienced, and shoujo fantasy is relatively rare in anime these days.
Dosanko Gal wa Namara Menkoi – Silver Link, Blade: (PV) Game adaptation Romcom about a Kanto boy who moves to Hokkaido and develops a fetish for Hokkaido gals (in the Japanese sense). Purely a “what the hell” scenario here, but director Minato Mirai has dome some decent work.
Meiji Gekken: 1874 – Quad: (PV) A late entry to the list, an original from a studio I’ve never heard of. Meiji Gekken:1874 is notable, perhaps, for being the first of a batch of series produced by Crunchyroll (i.e. Sony). It’s contemporaneous with Rurouni Kenshin so might be an interesting novelty in that sense. Nothing notable in the staff list (never heard of the writer either). The story seems to revolve an ex-samurai turned rickshaw driver turned policeman who gets caught up in a plot to overthrow the Meiji government.
Will definitely blog: BokuYaba Season 2, Sengouko Youko, Dungeon Meshi, Kingdom 5th Season. Four series. isn’t a huge number, but it’s a pretty darn good four on paper.
Sleepers: Gekkan Mousou Kagaku, Kyuujitsu no Waramono-san, and Majo to Yajuu all have some degree of sleeper vibe to them, and with Kishimoto writing I might even stretch to include Bucchigiri. Not a bad volume in the sleeper department.
Not much here is normal these days, but nothing at all I feel like previewing is pretty depressing.
Not nearly as hefty as Fall was, but there are a couple of theatricals slated for Winter 2024 that are certainly notable.
Haikyuu!! Movie: Gomisuteba no Kessen – 02/16/2024: (PV) According to readers of the manga, the two announced movies aren’t nearly enough time to properly adapt the rest of the series. I don’t know that this is all we’re going to get, but this is a growing trend with truly huge shounen adaptations. There’s more money to be made by finishing them in movie form than series form, and in effect the series is punished for being too successful.
Be that as it may, while I won’t troop to the theatre and pop ¥1800 to see these movies, I’ll certainly cover them when they hit Blu-ray or streaming. I don’t love Haikyuu but I do like it an awful lot. Most of the characters are quite winning, and in production terms I’d say it’s probably the top sports anime of all-time. This movie chronicles the long-awaited rematch between Karasuno and Nekoma (thus the “Battle at the Garbage Dump” sobriquet), and therefore between Shouyou and his fated rival, the diminutive setter Kenma-kun.
Dead Dead Demons Dededede Destruction – 03/22/2024: (PV) I do get why Asano Inio’s magnum opus, Oyasumi Punpun, has never been adapted. I mean, the challenges inherent are formidable to say the least. But any Asano being adapted is a big deal – this is really his first big-time anime – and Dead Dead Demons is no slouch if the reviews are to be believed. I would have preferred a series of course, but a two-part film series is certainly better than nothing.
As a story of alien invasion, this series is certainly broader in scope than Punpun. But as is his way, Asano is primarily interested in human weakness and how it manifests itself. Not a lot of big names on the staff side but overall it’s a group with enough experience to do the material justice if the budget is there to do so.