It's that time again: the start of the Fall anime season! One of the busiest times of year for new anime, this Autumn brings us 46 full-length shows (either premiering or returning for new seasons after the longest time), 14 series of shorts and seven shows continuing from the summer. In addition to all these premieres on Japanese TV, Netflix's unconventional international release schedule means there are several shows that originally aired in past seasons finally making their worldwide premieres this fall. Keeping up with all that anime would be impossible for all but those with the least work or social life obligations, so naturally, decisions must be made for what's worth paying attention to and what can be safely skipped.
From the outset, this Fall feels a little light on the absolute "must see" anime. There are some, but there are at least as many shows which feel like they could go either way. These shows all have some major flaw in their premiere episodes that could bode ill, but enough promise to possibly be worth continuing. Of course, there are also those shows so abominably awful you wonder who on Earth even approved of them. To be perfectly clear, these impressions are based entirely on premiere episodes, even though some of these shows might have multiple episodes aired at the time of this publication (and in the case of Netflix series, whole seasons worth of episodes available). It's entirely possible some of these shows turn around in unpredictable ways, but based on the premieres, we feel these judgments seem pretty safe.
18 WATCH: JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: GOLDEN WIND
Perhaps the most anticipated anime of the year is the grand return of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. It's been two years since Part 4 of the anime, Diamond is Unbreakable, aired, and fans had begun to doubt whether Part 5, Golden Wind, would even be animated. Thankfully, all the posing, powers and pushing of your suspension of disbelief is back, and it's glorious.
Golden Wind is a direct chronological sequel to Diamond is Unbreakable. Koichi is in Italy working for Jotaro to track the new Jojo, a gangster named Giorno Giovanna who is the son of Dio and has the power to turn objects into animals. The animation's not as stylish as Part 4, but even at that, Jojo is more fun than almost any other anime.
17 SKIP: UZAMAID!
How did UzaMaid get on Japanese TV? It feels like there has to be some sort of Producers-type scheme going on, as this is definitely not the kind of anime that should probably be on the air. What's it about? It's like a Pepe Le Pew cartoon, only instead of a skunk pursuing a cat, it's a grown woman doing that to a little girl in the same way.
It's perfectly understandable if that makes you as uncomfortable as it made us. The more annoying fact is that the production value is solid, the animation and comedic timing are both perfectly competent, but the storyline is just altogether absolutely terrible.
16 TOSS-UP: SSSS.GRIDMAN
SSSS.Gridman is an anime adaptation of an old tokusatsu show, which DiC adapted into Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad for Saturday mornings. It's a show about a hero in a robot suit beating up kaiju. Somewhat surprisingly, the anime takes things slow, not even getting to the action until two-thirds of the way through its first episode.
Though beautifully animated and interestingly directed, the characters are too bland for those first two thirds to really pop. Making the main character an amnesiac might be intended to create mystery but also seems like an excuse to avoid any characterization. Fortunately, the mecha vs. kaiju climax is exciting enough to give this a few more episodes worth of a chance.
15 WATCH: DOUBLE DECKER! DOUG AND KIRILL
Double Decker! Doug and Kirill is set in the same universe as Tiger & Bunny, and while there's no direct connections nor any requirement to have seen its predecessor first, fans should find much to like about Double Decker! Where Tiger & Bunny was a "superheroes as buddy cops" show, Double Decker! is about a non-superpowered buddy cop couple that happens to live in a world where superpowers are a thing.
Basically, if you ever wanted a TV show of Gotham Central and don't mind it being a bit on the wackier side, Double Decker! is the anime for you. It's funny, well animated and has an amazing and charming cast of characters. This one's a winner.
14 SKIP: RERIDED - DERRIDA, WHO LEAPS THROUGH TIME
RErideD - Derrida, who leaps through time sounded exciting on paper as the artist Yoshitoshi ABe's grand return to anime design 15 years after Texhnolyze. Watching the show itself, you'd never be able to tell this was an ABe show. ABe did concept art, but so much of his work was either redone or rejected that his distinctive style is completely absent.
The result is a show that looks generic as much as it feels boring. There are elements that could have been the basis for something interesting (the philosophical allusions of the title, the villain whose hair and mannerisms recall a certain Loud Orange Man), but as a whole, this is a forgettable sci-fi anime.
13 TOSS-UP: RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI
The title Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai sounds like it would be for some sort of racy comedy, but that's not the case. Instead, this is rather a low-key drama with a light element of magical realism (in the form of adolescent fantasies manifesting in reality). It takes itself very seriously, perhaps too much so.
The big question is where the show is going to end up focusing itself. Based on the premiere, the biggest issue is that the Holden Caulfield-esque main character Sakuta is the least interesting and most annoying person in the show. His sister Kaede's struggles with cyberbullying and "Bunny Girl" Mai's fall from child stardom into literal invisibility prove more promising.
12 WATCH: THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME
The isekai genre is typically about power fantasies. They often have to do with a character who somehow escapes their mundane life and gets to live as an epic hero (or villain) in a fantasy world. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime subverts that. Yes, our sad protagonist gets a second chance at life in a video game-esque fantasy world, but he's not anyone special or powerful in this life either: he's a slime, the lowest and lamest of enemies!
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime does have some of the flaws common to isekai series, mainly in the form of over-expository dialogue. Even so, the show offers bizarrely cute and often laugh-out-loud funny twists on some of the most common anime tropes.
11 SKIP: GOBLIN SLAYER
Dark and edgy for dark and edgy's sake is just boring. Such seems to be the case with Goblin Slayer. Based on its first episode as well as knowledge of the even darker and edgier manga that spawned it, this show is nothing more than an excuse to indulge in every possible terrible subject one could think of. That is all it really is.
Fans might justify the attrocities by saying that's what life was like in the Middle Ages, but a show about goblins is by nature unrealistic, so it doesn't have that excuse. It just comes off as gratuitous violence. There's nothing wrong with shows dealing in upsetting content if they actually have something to say, but Goblin Slayer's premiere gives no reason to presume hidden depths.
10 TOSS-UP: RADIANT
The most interesting thing about Radiant is its origins. This isn't based on a Japanese manga, but rather a French comic done in the shonen manga style. Whether due to the quality of the source material or of the anime adaptation, you'd never know this didn't come from a regular shonen manga, so accurate is it to the style.
While it recreates the style well and the sorcerer heroes are likable enough, Radiant doesn't stand out much at first glance from the dozens of other similar shows competing for attention. Series in this genre typically take several episodes to really get going anyway, so we'll wait and see if this evolves into a must-see.
9 WATCH: ZOMBIELAND SAGA
There might not ever be a "cute girls and zombies" show as brilliant as School-Live!, but Zombie Land Saga fills the niche in its own clever way. Whereas School-Live! was a psychological drama where the cute girls protected each other from zombies, ZombieLand Saga is a comedy where the cute girls ARE the zombies!
Also, for some reason, they're idol musicians. Getting them to give a quality performance is kind of a challenge, given only one of the zombie girls has any semblance of sentience to begin with, but what ends up happening is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
8 SKIP: DAKAICHI
The problem with Dakaichi is summed up by the show's extended subtitle, which pretty much explains that this is not a love story, this is anything but that. For the most part, the Boy's Love genre historically has not had the best record when it comes to portraying consent, and Dakaichi is no exception to this.
It's not the worst offender in this regard, but it's still far from good. You can enjoy this sort of thing so long as you understand this is not how real relationships should work. Those who don't enjoy it will long for more genuinely romantic shows about healthy gay couples, in which case, they should definitely check out Yuri On Ice.
7 TOSS-UP: BOARDING SCHOOL JULIET
Do we really need another version of Romeo and Juliet? For its part, Boarding School Juliet does manage to stand out from the crowd by transplanting the story to a wealthy Japanese boarding school and (so far, anyway) playing up the comedic aspects. Think Romeo and Juliet by way of Ouran High School Host Club.
If it's not as clever as Ouran so far, but its sword fighting starcrossed lovers do have a genuine charm to them. There's one disturbing scene, however, which makes this premiere hard to recommend entirely. Hopefully, that misstep doesn't translate to more problematic elements down the line.
6 WATCH: DRAGON PILOT: HISONE & MASOTAN
The most exciting of the Netflix holdovers just premiering worldwide this fall is Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan. Written by Mari Okada (Ano Hana, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans), directed by Shinji Higuchi (Shin Godzilla, those live-action Attack on Titan movies), and animated by the talented team at BONES, this one has a strong team behind it.
The show follows the brutally honest pilot Hisone, who discovers the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's secret weapons: dragons who disguise themselves as planes. The show is cutely drawn and funny, with just a little bit of grossness which you will see only with the dragons. With Okada, expect things to get emotional at some point.
5 SKIP: ULYSSES: JEANNE D'ARC AND THE ALCHEMIST KNIGHT
Ulysses: Jeanne D'Arc and the Alchemist Knight doesn't even introduce Jeanne D'Arc in its first episode, and there's seemingly no recognizable version of Ulysses (neither Homer's nor Joyce's) in the series at all. The premiere at least delivers on the alchemy, but the problem is this show is simply boring.
It might not be offensively bad like other shows this season (at least for those who aren't offended by flagrant historical inaccuracy and religious blasphemy), but there's nothing in the mediocre plotting and merely adequate animation to hook prospective viewers either. Based on word of mouth from those who've seen episode two at Crunchyroll Expo, it only goes downhill from here.
4 TOSS-UP: FOREST OF PIANO
The Forest of Piano manga was already adapted into a movie a decade before the TV series, now streaming its first season on Netflix, began. Based on first impressions of the TV show, a movie format might be the better fit for this story. In particular, cinematic production values would almost certainly improve it.
The story about a bullied musical prodigy who finds a mysterious abandoned piano in the forest is intriguing, but the animation quality really lets it down. The CGI piano playing scenes are clumsily integrated, while the 2D animation is limited and the designs are distractingly cartoony for the subject matter. Your mileage may vary on whether the story's worth watching despite the visuals.
3 WATCH: SKULL-FACE BOOKSELLER HONDA-SAN
Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San might very well be, if not the best anime of the year, potentially the most entertaining. With 11-minute episodes and minimal production value, it would be right at home on Adult Swim, but it's also as utterly hilarious as the best Adult Swim shows.
The skeleton works in a manga store, so the jokes are primarily at the expense of manga and its fans (and in the first episode, at least, there's a particular focus on Western fans with some hilarious English jokes). This show knows its audience almost too well; the satire is almost painfully on-point. It's completely ridiculous and utterly delightful.
2 SKIP: JINGAI-SAN NO YOME
Literally nothing happens in the first episode of Jingai-San no Yome. A boy walks to school, then gets called out of class. That happens over 90 seconds. The next 90 seconds, half of the short episode, is just an end credits song. Even by the standards of short anime, that's ridiculous. Judging by the first episode, there's nothing to recommend about this show.
To be fair, after watching the second episode there is stuff happening: the boy has an arranged marriage to a weird monster thing, and the credits are reduced to just 30 seconds of the runtime. Still not particularly funny or good at all, but at least it resembles an actual show more than the nothing premiere.
1 TOSS-UP: IRODUKU: THE WORLD IN COLORS
On animation quality alone, Iroduku: The World in Colors is worth watching at least one episode of. Just from the screencap above, you can tell this is a gorgeous-looking the show. The big question is where the plot's going to end up going, and whether it becomes moving or merely a cliche.
The fantasy worldbuilding and time travel shenanigans are entertaining enough, while the protagonist Hitomi's struggle with depression could prove to be powerful. There are some indications, however, this could easily turn into a sappy "true love cures all" narrative, which really isn't helpful at all when portraying mental illness. We'll see where this goes.