Alright. You know the drill. A new anime season means new anime — 42 for this summer season to be precise. With so many, it can be hard to know what to watch, and that's why we've put together this guide. I have spent the past few weeks getting fully caught up on all of the winter 2016 season's most well-recommended anime (as well as several additional ones that just happened to catch my eye.) So here are the five you should definitely check out.
Of course, keep in mind as you read that these are simply the anime that should not be missed this season. There are many more airing currently that are perfectly watchable, and many that are downright enjoyable. The following, however, are the cream of the crop.
Erased (Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi)
Studio: A-1 Pictures Currently at: Episode 7 (of 12) Genre: Time Travel, Mystery
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Satoru is a 29-year-old aspiring manga artist who works part time as a pizza delivery man. That part of his life is as normal as can be, yet he discovers he also has a supernatural power. Sometimes, without warning, he will find himself a few minutes in the past, at a point in time where he will be able to save the life of someone in his vicinity. While he finds the power a nuisance, he always does his best during one of these "revivals" to figure out who is in danger and how to save them.
But, when his mother is killed and he is being hunted as the sole suspect, he finds himself sent not a few minutes into the past but rather 18 years back to the world of 1988. Now, a 29-year-old man in a 10-year-old's body, he comes to believe that the key to saving his mother is to first save Kayo, a young friendless girl destined to be abducted and murdered in the days to come.
Why You Should Watch It: Erased is an amazing murder mystery that spans decades. The time travel aspect gives a welcome alteration to the murder mystery formula and allows for numerous innovative twists and turns. At the same time, the villain is meticulous, intelligent and able to adapt, making even knowledge of the future seem like not enough to stop the murderer's killings.
Erased doesn't shy away from the tough topics. It deals prominently with those on the edge of "proper" society, from the kind, yet anti-social man who seems to only be able to befriend children to the working-poor woman who can only find validation in life through beating her child. But more than anything, it's the story about just how much one child can do to help others, and at the same time, just how little.
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Studio: Studio Deen Currently at: Episode 7 (of 13) Genre: Historical, Slice-of-Life
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: At first glance, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is the story of Yotaro, a fresh-out-of-prison former yakuza thug who decides he wants to be the apprentice to Yakumo: a master of rakugo (traditional Japanese storytelling). There's just one problem, the elderly master has never taken on an apprentice in all his years. However, despite this, Yakumo takes the youth into his household and agrees to train him. All this takes up only two episodes, as it is but the framing device for the real story.
The actual plot of this anime is the story of Yakumo's life, telling how he began life as the crippled son of a geisha in pre-war Japan and grew into one of Japan's last great storytellers alongside his wild-orphan best friend Sukeroku.
Why You Should Watch It: On one hand, this anime is a look at the rise of modern Japan told through one man's life story. On top of that, we see this massive cultural shift through the eyes of a practitioner of one of Japan's most popular traditional art forms. It is also a personal story about life, love and art, and how to balance the three to find happiness.
The other great part of the series is the rakugo stories themselves. Every episode or two, we are treated to a short five-minute story showcasing the classic performance art in animated form. It's a fantastic look at an art form where one man plays all the roles and a simple fan can be used as a thousand different props across comedies, dramas and horror tales alike.
Watch It If You Like: Rakugo, Japanese fairytales, or modern Japanese history.
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! (Kono Subarashi Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo! )
Studio: Studio Deen Currently at: Episode 6 (of 10) Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: After dying while attempting to save a girl from being run over, teen otaku Kazuma finds himself on the doorstep to the afterlife. There the goddess Aqua gives him three choices: to be reincarnated, to move on to heaven (which is apparently incredibly boring) or to be transferred with his current body and memories into an RPG-style fantasy world (which its own denizens refused to be reincarnated into because of evil demon king problems). To sweeten the pot, Aqua even allows Kazuma to take any one thing with him into the fantasy world. His choice? Aqua herself. It's a choice both come to regret almost immediately.
Why You Should Watch It: The comedy in KonoSuba largely stems from subverting RPG and "hero from another world" fantasy tropes. Far from being the destined hero of this fantasy world, Kazuma starts at the very bottom. Aqua, a pampered (and not too intelligent) goddess, causes far more problems than solutions. Add to that a mage obsessed with magic too powerful for her own good and a paladin who has masochistic tendencies and you have a setup running over with comedy. And to cap it off, Kazuma is the perfect straight man to be surrounded by these crazies. His reactions play off theirs to create a cycle of hilarity that rarely allows you time to catch your breath for all your laughing.
Studio: ixtl and Liden Films Currently at: Episode 7 (of 12) Genre: Mecha
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: In an alternate version of the 1980s, the Cold War rages on even amidst an invasion of alien creatures. Set in communist East Germany, Schwarzes Marken follows the country's strongest mecha unit as it fights against the aliens, and shows the West the superiority of communist doctrine.
Why You Should Watch It: While it appears on the surface to be just your run-of-the-mill mecha anime, Schwarzes Marken stands out from the crowd thanks to its setting. It's as much about the hell of living within a totalitarian communist state as it is about fighting aliens with giant robots. The people live in the fear that a wrong word can send the secret police to your door and your family to be tortured as traitors. Thanks to this, you're never sure which characters are trustworthy and which are informants.
The anime's other strong point is the supporting cast. While all are part of the heroes, they are far from being a unified group of friends. The leader of the unit killed her own brother when he was accused of treason. The political officer completely buys into the party doctrine and propaganda spread throughout the country. One pilot suffers from severe PTSD which causes her to react erratically in battle. Another, a defector from the West, believes that everyone can get along if they just sit down and talk — an idea that will likely get her killed either by her companions or by the secret police.
Watch It If You Like: Muv Luv, Gun Parade March, Cold War stories
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll
Studio: Polygon Pictures Currently at: Episode 6 (of 12) Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Seventeen years ago, a new race of immortals was discovered. They look like us. They sound like us. They act like us. But they are not human. As they have no human rights, they are captured and subjected to inhuman testing, killed again and again in the pursuit of scientific knowledge and simple profit. Worst of all, even you could be one and never know it — not until the moment you died and then came back to life. Such is the fate of high school student Kei who, after discovering he is an Ajin, flees across Japan from a fate far worse than death.
Why You Should Watch It: When it comes down to it, Ajin is all about how much it would suck to be immortal. Suddenly being declared non-human and subsequently hunted by former friends and strangers alike is a daunting prospect for anyone to face. Can you trust anyone when the stakes are that high? And can you really escape if a whole country is looking for you?
Another cool aspect of the anime is the constantly evolving tactics to capture an immortal, and the subsequent counter tactics that the Ajin use to avoid capture. And once it becomes clear that the Ajin have another power beyond that of coming back to life, stakes in battle reach a whole new level.
Watch It If You Like: The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk
Where You Can Watch It: Netflix (From Autumn 2016)
Bonus Pick: The Short Form Anime You Should Be Watching
Please Tell Me! Galko-Chan (Oshiete! Galko-Chan)
Studio: Feel Currently at: Episode 7 (of 12) Genre: Comedy
Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: This anime is the story of three high school girls: Galko, a popular and beautiful fashionista; Otako, a nerdy otaku who has somehow become Galko's best friend; and Ojou, a naive and sheltered rich girl who likes spending time with the other two. Most episodes deal with Otako's hobby of using clever wordplay and leading questions to trick Galko into revealing some piece of embarrassing information about her body in front of the rest of the class.
Why You Should Watch It: Please Tell Me! Galko-Chan is an anime largely centred around sexual humour. Each eight-minute episode deals with at least one commonly known (but highly dubious) "fact" about women and/or their bodies. In short, they're stereotypes, such as certain panty colours denote sexual proclivity — and that is one of the tamest examples. The truth or absurdity of these "facts" are lampooned as Galko, her friends, and often her clueless male classmates try to get to the bottom of each.
Watch It If You Like: Shimoneta
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll