Lenlo: It’s the end of the year everyone! I hope you’re staying warm and having a happy holidays. Personally, I have a metric shit ton to write before my next semester of grad school starts up mid January, so I am happy to announce that Wooper decided to make a short return and help me preview the Winter 2024 season for you all! We have a fair number of shows, some that will probably crash and burn like Fire Hunter Season 2, others that may actually be worth your time such as Dungeon Meshi and A Sign of Affection. Sadly though, there doesn’t appear to be anything too great to look forward to. Well nothing new at any rate, Undead Unluck and Frieren will still be going strong for a few weeks yet. And hey, who knows! Maybe something will surprise us like Migi & Dali did. Only time will tell. For now that, take a look at what you can expect from the next season!
Going to be a Dumpster Fire
The Fire Hunter Season 2
Studio: Signal MD
Director: Junji Nishimura
Series composition: Mamoru Oshii
The Premise: The second season of The Fire Hunter.
Lenlo: So if I’m being honest, I don’t actually want to watch this. Hell, I don’t even think it deserves to exist. Season one was an absolute cluster fuck of a production, unable to accomplish even the most basic of tasks. It failed to establish a compelling world, characters, or plot. It is, without question, one of the worst failed projects I’ve actually finished in a long time. So obviously I have to check it out right? Just to see if it manages to pull up and prevent itself from crashing into the ground? And worst case scenario I get to poke fun at another train wreck?
My Instant Death Ability Is So Overpowered, No One in This Other World Stands a Chance Against Me!
Studio: Okuruto Noboru
Director: Masakazu Hishida
Series composition: Jou Aoba
Source: Light Novel
The Premise: A lackadaisical high school boy uses his Instant Death power to defeat his enemies after his class is transported to a parallel world.
Wooper: This season is replete with both isekai and rebirth anime – so much so that I can hardly tell whether “Instant Death Ability” (which belongs to the former category) will end up at the top or bottom of the heap. Either way, it’s not going to be remembered for long, since protagonist Yogiri Takatou belongs to the single most forgettable category of anime characters: social rejects who adopt aloofness as a cover for their epic superpowers. And Yogiri’s power is the most epic of all, allowing him to kill merely by willing it to happen. No Death Note, no One Punch, no conditions to fulfill or battles to win – he just raises his right hand and mutters “die,” and the object of his thoughts keels over without protest. If you’re the sort of anime fan whose sole mission in life is to compare the strength of hundreds of interchangeable “MCs,” then this series will send you straight to heaven. I just hope that once you’re reborn in a fantasy world, your new hobby won’t be nearly so pathetic.
Mahou Shoujo ni Akogarete
Studio: Asahi Production
Director: Atsushi Ootsuki, Masato Suzuki
Series composition: Noboru Kimura
Source: Web Manga
The Premise: A magical girl fangirl is chosen to become one of the protectors of her city! Only when she transforms she learns she’s more suited to be a villain on the side of evil, as she takes perverse pleasure in tormenting her local magical girls.
Lenlo: Where Fire Hunter caught my eye because it’s a complete failure of a production, Akogarete got me with just how shameless it is. The opening 30 seconds of its PV consists of thongs, nipple stickers, BDSM and sadism. It isn’t even trying to hide what it is, this is an ecchi “Watch little girls in compromising situations” show through and through. And while I can respect the fact that it doesn’t try to hide anything, I don’t see how this is anything more than soft-core porn. Someone may like it, but it definitely won’t be me. Still maybe it doesn’t deserve to be down this low since its production seems kind of decent… Will see how it shakes out!
Studio: Seven Arcs
Director: Junji Nishimura, Gorou Kuji
Series composition: Yasuhiro Nakanishi
The Premise: Magical girls fight back demons from another dimension after eating peaches that grant them supernatural abilities. Peaches? What is this, Greek myth? Wait, that’s a pomegranate… Anyways one man finds he has the ability to increase their effectiveness, and is about to be put to work!
Lenlo: Chained Soldier looks like a pretty straight forward “OP MC with a harem” show. The peaches only being usable by women forces him to be surrounded by a variety of waifus, his ability makes it so they all will end up liking him for no reason and the female lead being a dominatrix that binds him with chains and asserts dominance through tonguing means there will be plenty of ecchi content. And with the production seeming worse than Akogarete up above, what with the entirely CG monsters and combat scenes, you might be wondering why this is down here and not up in the previous section. Well that’s simple: This feels like it might try to do more than just be titillate. Not much, that’s why it’s this close to the edge, but enough that I won’t immediately write it off… Probably.
Director: Takeo Takahashi, Yuuki Ogawa
Series composition: Kenta Ihara
Source: Light Novel
The Premise: An all-powerful swordsman joins a worldwide battle to attain the title “True Hero” in the wake of the Demon King’s death.
Wooper: The online profile for Ishura’s main character says he has the ability to ‘discern, with a single glance, the perfect way to kill his enemies.’ At least he has to use a sword to do his killing, though, unlike another isekai antihero I could name. Who or what will he be killing, you ask? That’s not entirely clear from the promotional material – what is clear is that they’ll be rendered in CG. Robots, spiders, skeletons, gun-wielding dragons (yes, really), and even more enemies look to be part of Ishura’s series-spanning battle, which results from a power vacuum left behind by the death of the Demon King. The show’s kitchen sink approach may appeal to the folks in the middle of the fantasy/battle royale Venn diagram, but studio Passione doesn’t have the cachet to bring its big brawl to life without middling 3D models, and the extent of the series’ color design seems to be “avoid colors apart from blue and orange.” It’s not all bad news, though – the director can always fall back on Hollywood poster design if the whole anime thing doesn’t work out.
The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic
Studio: Shin-Ei Animation, Studio Add
Director: Takahide Ogata
Series composition: Shougo Yasukawa
Source: Light Novel
The Premise: An isekai where the MC is summoned with supportive healing magic instead of anything offensively OP! Wait, he uses that healing magic to train himself into a veritable god? Well shit.
Lenlo: Wrong Way had one chance at being decent, and that was to lean into the idea of a supportive MC. Someone who brings out the best in his team, whether it be with strategy or intelligent use of magic. But Wrong Way doesn’t do that. Instead it takes an otherwise minimally interesting premise and, like every other Isekai ever made, ruins it by turning him into a combat-focused monster of physicality. There’s a little bit of hope that it won’t jump right into the bullshit, that it may at least try and do something interesting. But I’m not holding my breath, so it gets placed this low on the list.
The Unwanted Undead Adventurer
Director: Noriaki Akitaya
Series composition: Yukie Sugawara
Source: Light Novel
The Premise: A mid-twenties adventurer sets out on a quest to regain his human form after being transfigured into a living skeleton.
Wooper: Adult protagonist alert! The Unwanted Undead Adventurer, or “Nozomanu Fushi no Boukensha,” is a non-isekai fantasy series that stars a twenty-five year old hero! At long last, my prayers have been ans– Oh, he was eaten by a dragon and pooped out as an animated skeleton, so he’s only an adult human by technicality? Well, at least he’s mature on a mental lev– Oh, the show’s fantasy world has blatant RPG elements, essentially killing the chance of any character operating based on human motivations? Well, maybe the atmosphere will carr– Oh, the PV proudly shows off some of the most middling animation that Japan (and whatever country did the in-betweens) has recently produced? Well, at least the aforementioned dragon is 2D– Oh, the dragon looks like this? Alright, I give up. For those of you who are still interested, though, it should be noted that writer Yukie Sugawara is the same woman who handles the scripts for Overlord’s anime adaptation, so if you like that show, you may enjoy this one, too (plus they’ve both got the whole skeleton thing going on).
Tales of Wedding Rings
Studio: Staple Entertainment
Director: Takashi Naoya
Series composition: Hitomi Mieno
The Premise: What would you do if your childhood friend was moving away to get married? Would you crash the wedding, steal the kiss and become her groom yourself? Because that’s what Satou did! Only, it turns out, her husband is destined to become a hero of immense power and save the world! Oh and this all takes place in an isekai world. And he probably marries like… 4 more girls.
Lenlo: The further into the season I get the more these ecchi feel like they might actually have a story. Not much of one, Wedding Rings is still about a guy marrying, probably, five different women with different body types to provide options for every preference, gaining power as he does to save the world. But like… At least there’s a world to save? And that one girl in a string bikini looks hot? I’m not expecting a lot but if Wedding Rings can give me some kind of justifiable reason for marrying five different women, and they have actual personalities beyond “We love the MC”, I can at least accept it existing. Hell, I may even enjoy it a little. I like hot girls too, you know. Especially ones with horns.
Sasaki and Peeps
Studio: Silver Link
Director: Mirai Minato
Series composition: Hitomi Mieno
Source: Light Novel
The Premise: An unfulfilled salaryman is granted the ability to travel between worlds by his pet bird, who is actually the sage Piercarlo reborn as a sparrow.
Wooper: The most notable thing about “Sasaki to Pii-chan” is its cast, which boasts five of the most sought-after voice actors in Japan. I don’t imagine there are a lot of seiyuu fanatics in our audience, so I’ll just list one character that each of those five actors have voiced in the past: Ginpachi, Madoka, Emilia, Rem, Hisoka. Clearly the production company’s strategy with this show was to bank on star power, rather than the talent of Mirai Minato, a man who hasn’t led a single project of note in the past decade. (He’s heading up two shows this season, though, so he’s doubled his chances of breaking through in 2024!) Could Sasaki and Peeps manage to be a fun middle aged isekai despite the director-shaped albatross around its neck? Possibly. Based on the series’ promotional info, it seems as though Japan stays in the picture even after the protagonist gains the power to travel to another world. The idea of a plot where a character has to travel between two realities to maintain balance in each is a tantalizing one, so if Sasaki heads in that direction, the story might hold some promise. The silliness factor of a Gandalf-level sage trapped in the body of a squeaky-voiced bird might be good for a laugh or two, as well. As far as isekai adaptations go, this is one of winter’s better offerings.
The Foolish Angel Dances with the Devil
Studio: Children’s Playground Entertainment
Director: Itsurou Kawasaki
Series composition: Itsurou Kawasaki
The Premise: Masatora Akutsu, a demon on a recruitment mission in a human high school, is drafting allies for Hell against the heavenly angels. But when seated beside the captivating Lily Amane, he’s in for a devilishly hilarious celestial surprise!
Lenlo: If I didn’t enjoy series about diametrically opposed embodiments of philosophical good and evil, I wouldn’t enjoy Good Omens as much as I do. Of course Dances with the Devil is nowhere near as good as Good Omens, I can tell you that much right now. But the idea of an angel and demon falling in love Romeo and Juliet style is at least a little appealing. And from the looks of the trailer it intends to play it straight, like an actual romance instead of an excuse to show ass and titty. I appreciate that! So while nothing about the production stands out, I don’t recognize either the studio or the director, I’m at least going to give it a shot. Best case? I leave with a wholesome romance. Worst? I watch like… two episodes and leave.
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Shunsuke Nakashige
Series composition: Noboru Kimura
Source: Web Novel
The Premise: A decade ago “Gates” appeared in the world, portals to another dimension from which monsters spewed forth. When they did, certain humans began to awaken powers and fought against those monsters. These people were called “Hunters”. And Shun Mizushino is known as the weakest of them.
Lenlo: This is going to be a bit of a hot take, but I’m ready for the fight: Solo Leveling isn’t very good. The story is non-existent, operating entirely on the “Rule of Cool”. And while by its very nature, that’s pretty damn cool and should be kinda fun, it has little else going for it. The original series was carried heavily by the art, and while I’m sure A-1 Pictures will do their best and it will look pretty good, I don’t think Solo Leveling is going to be able to match what it had as a Web Novel . Still, I expect this to be a fun popcorn action series worth watching. The early arcs while the MC is still figuring his shit out don’t get too stupid, plus we won’t have to worry about the author’s intense hatred of Japan for a while either. Give it a season or two until we get to that. Overall Solo Leveling should be a solid, if ultimately forgettable, addition to the season.
Hime-sama, “Goumon” no Jikan desu
Studio: Pine Jam
Director: Youko Kanamori
Series composition: Kazuyuki Fudeyasu
The Premise: After being captured by the Demon King’s army, a warrior princess discovers that life in prison isn’t too bad.
Wooper: Ever since 2020’s stealthily good Maou-jou de Oyasumi, I’ve been looking for another series that might scratch that same ‘low stakes fantasy parody’ itch. This season’s Hime-sama may be the one to do it – both shows feature a princess held captive by fantasy villains, and in both cases that captivity turns out to be more fun than fearsome. The “Goumon” in this one’s title literally means “torture,” but based on my brief perusal of the manga (which has over 200 translated chapters!), the series’ harshest punishments include withholding yummy-looking food for several minutes, or getting the princess addicted to a Shounen Jump-themed fighting game. Haruka Shiraishi really goes for broke in the lead role, at least based on her squeals and shrieks in the PV, which creates a much different tone than the one Sleepy Princess adopted three years ago – but hey, variety is the spice of voice acting. First time director Youko Kanamori’s involvement is another potential plus, as she previously racked up experience as an episode director on titles like The Ancient Magus’ Bride and Attack on Titan. My expectations are low for this one, but I’m down to watch the premiere, at the very least.
Hokkaido Gals Are Super Adorable
Studio: Blade, Silver Link
Director: Mirai Minato, Misuzu Hoshino
Series composition: Mirai Minato
The Premise: Snowflakes aren’t the only things dropping in Hokkaido—so are jaws, thanks to the super adorable gals who are turning the icy north into a hotbed of fashion and fun
Lenlo: It’s kind of wild. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to enjoy a well made romance more and more. I blame my grandparents for constantly asking about grandkids. Anyways back on topic, Hokkaido is pretty, snow is pretty, and gyarus can be pretty. So I’m going to give Hokkaido Gals a shot. If it can deliver unto me a legitimately wholesome romance, keep the ecchi to a minimum, and make these girls distinct from each other in both personality and looks, then I’ll be happy. A tall order I know, I’m asking a lot. But sometimes I just want to watch cute girls play in the hokkaido snow god damnit! If we’re lucky maybe we can get something on a similar level to My Dress-up Darling. That would make me happy.
Director: Motonobu Hori
Series composition: Yutaka Izubuchi
The Premise: An android girl and her human partner are tasked with tracking down nine anti-government androids on Mars.
Wooper: So this is Bones’ 25th anniversary project? I’ve got to be honest – most of what I’ve seen from Metallic Rouge makes me wonder whether it’s worthy of that honor. The washed out backgrounds on display in the trailer are a far cry from what the studio has mustered for past projects, and the art director’s lack of prior experience there is a little worrisome. The CG used for the android battles looks elegant by anime standards, but the traditional animation comes from the youngest of their five production lines, so it’s not likely to be more than above average. Putting aside the visuals for a moment, however, there’s one staff member whose presence is sure to make this a genuine Bones affair: writer Yutaka Izubuchi, 40 year industry veteran and director of RahXephon, the studio’s first ever original TV anime. If you know anything about RahXephon, you know that Izubuchi’s involvement with Metallic Rouge means the show is likely to enter abstract territory as it nears its conclusion. Personally, I’m all for that sort of development, though it won’t please everyone (assuming it happens at all). In any case, Metallic Rouge is another original anime from one of Japan’s most exciting studios, so it’s surely worth a look – just don’t expect an instant classic.
The Witch and the Beast
Studio: Yokohama Animation Lab
Director: Takayuki Hamana
Series composition: Yuuichirou Momose
The Premise: A man carrying a coffin and a girl with the eyes of a beast appear in a town, hunting the witch who cursed them. Will they be able to find her? And can their curses truly be undone?
Lenlo: A big reason Witch and the Beast is down here and not in Anticipating is because the manga is on hiatus, meaning there’s little chance we get anything resembling an ending. That’s an automatic knock for me. Aside from that it looks like a fun “Edgy” shounen. The kind of thing centered around werewolves and vampires, western myths and the like we’ve seen multiple times before. While that isn’t exciting, the PV looks like it will be pretty solid. That’s kind of surprising, as the studio is a relative unknown and the directors only notable work is Arte from a few years back. There’s really nothing about Witch and the Beast that indicates it’s going to be worth watching. Still, looking at the PV I can’t help but think “What if”. So it goes right on the line between anticipation and middling.
Shows We’re Anticipating
Director: Hiroko Utsumi
Series composition: Taku Kishimoto
The Premise: A teenage boy transfers into a high school infested with delinquents and soon finds himself caught up in their brawls. Soon afterward, a djinn appears and offers him one wish.
Wooper: Bucchigiri looks more like a Bones show than the actual Bones show releasing this season, and for good reason: it’s directed by Hiroko Utsumi, who helmed SK8 the Infinity at that studio nearly three years ago (she’ll be returning for the sequel at some point in the future). I blogged SK8 as it aired, and while I wasn’t a huge fan, it was Lenlo’s third favorite TV anime of 2021, so I’ve opted to throw Bucchigiri into the “Anticipated” category on his behalf. After all, the excellent PV shows off the same strong linework and colorful backgrounds as Utsumi’s previous series, plus one of its most reliable animators (Takahiro Kagami) is returning as chief animation director here. Bucchigiri looks to be about highly exaggerated street fighting rather than highly exaggerated skateboarding, and it’s got a supernatural twist in the form of a djinn with flowing red hair, who appears to the main character and grants him one wish. What does he wish for? You can watch the trailer linked above if you’re willing to be “spoiled,” but let’s just say his request is a major indicator that Bucchigiri won’t take itself too seriously. That’s a plus for me, so I’ll be parked in front of my TV when the premiere drops in mid-January.
Studio: White Fox
Director: Masahiro Aizawa
Series composition: Jukki Hanada
The Premise: The world is divided into two factions: humans and monsters called katawara. Despite being a katawara, Tama loves humans and vows to protect them from evil, even if it means fighting her own kind. Her brother Jinka, however, hates humans, despite mostly being one. The siblings are joined by a cowardly swordsman named Shinsuke, who wants to learn how to become strong
Lenlo: I’ll admit, on the surface Sengoku Youko doesn’t look like much. Hell the more I look into it the less sure I am it’s worth anything. It looks like a pretty straight forward Inuyasha clone for the most part. But there’s one thing that keeps me from ignoring it, and that’s Satoshi Mizukami, the author of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer as well as Spirit Circle. If nothing else, coming from such a successful mangaka means it has potential. Maybe the PV just fails to capture what sets it apart, too focused on all the usual hype trappings like big fights and flashy effects. I don’t know! But I’m hoping to find out.
A Sign of Affection
Director: Yuuta Murano
Series composition: Youko Yonaiyama
The Premise: A deaf university student and her globetrotting upperclassman fall in love.
Wooper: A Sign of Affection (“Yubisaki to Renren”) is probably my second most anticipated anime of the season, right behind Dungeon Meshi. That’s a bit odd, because at this point in my life, I mostly rely on staff lists to determine which shows will be worth watching, and this one doesn’t look particularly strong. Still, I can’t resist the appeal of a romance anime set largely in winter, featuring college-age protagonists and soundtracked mostly with piano and violin. This show’s localized title might as well be “A Sign of Wooper’s Affection” for how much I love that combination of details. Yubisaki’s female lead is deaf, which will do a few interesting things for the show: contrast her conversational silence with her internal monologue, serve as a minor obstacle for its lovebirds, and create opportunities for on-screen sign language, which is one of the coolest types of character animation. Whether the folks at Ajia-do can handle that last task is up in the air, but the attempt itself is worth respect, and the compositing team seems prepared to carry the show if the trailer is anything to go by. Whereas Dungeon Meshi is practically a guaranteed success, A Sign of Affection is far less likely to live up to my expectations, but I’m hoping for a heart-stopping shoujo experience nonetheless.
Director: Yoshihiro Miyajima
Series composition: Kimiko Ueno
The Premise: When young adventurer Laios and his company are attacked and soundly thrashed by a dragon deep in a dungeon, the party loses all its money and provisions…and a member! They’re eager to go back and save her, but there is just one problem: If they set out with no food or coin to speak of, they’re sure to starve on the way! But Laios comes up with a brilliant idea: “Let’s eat the monsters!” Slimes, basilisks, and even dragons…none are safe from the appetites of these dungeon-crawling gourmands!
Lenlo: I’ve heard… A lot of things about Dungeon Meshi. Some from friends who just lust after any elf they can find in media. Others who genuinely enjoy the adventure and joy found in discovering and eating new foods. Whichever it is, the one thing both groups agree on is that the cast is a joy to watch and that the first episode they got to see at Anime Expo was a blast. Now am I going to take their word for it, seeing as I’ve not read a single chapter of this manga? Yes! I am! Because I trust Studio Trigger to not fuck it up and this is Yoshihiro Miyajima’s directorial debut. Honestly, with those two things combined, this should probably be in the Highest Expectations tier. But if I moved it there I wouldn’t be able to joke about it being empty in the intro, so instead Dungeon Meshi gets to sit comfortably at my “Most Anticipated” for the season.