It's time for Summer anime! While Summer typically has less new shows than the Spring or Fall seasons, there's still a lot of new anime to enjoy. For Summer 2018, there are 50 new or newly returning anime series on Japanese TV in addition to 11 shows continuing from the Spring season, most of which are streaming in the United States and internationally. With so much anime out there, how do you separate what's worth giving a chance from what you can safely skip? That's where this list hopes to come in handy, recommending 10 highlights worth watching as well as 10 you might be better off ignoring (with links to where you can watch these series). The focus of this list is on the new or newly returning shows, as fans presumably already know what shows they like and dislike amongst the Spring 2018 leftovers.
As of this writing, it's early in the season, with most new shows having only aired one or two episodes, so it's possible some of the weak premieres get better and the recommendations get worse as the season progresses. Not every new show was available for review. Netflix has licensed Hi-Score Girl, Back Street Girls and Sirius the Jaeger and are holding off on those shows' American releases. Revue Starlight is streaming on HIDIVE, but without translations for the musical numbers; given the show's a musical, it seems unfair to review it in such a compromised presentation. Lastly, as far as shows this article couldn't cover go, Attack on Titan Season 3 has yet to premiere as of this writing, though fans probably already know what to expect there.
20 WATCH: FLCL PROGRESSIVE/ALTERNATIVE
A pair of six episode miniseries premiering in America first, the FLCL sequels Progressive and Alternative don't fit into the typical Japanese season cycle, but are still technically summer shows, so worth discussing here. All six episodes of Progressive aired in June and July. Alternative officially launches in September, though the first episode had a surprise airing on April Fools.
Both sequels had a lot to live up to, and Progressive is still stuck in the shadow of the original FLCL. Even so, the characters are great, the animation's frequently stunning and the music still rocks (despite some sound mixing problems). Based on the premiere, it seems Alternative has a good chance of surpassing Progressive with its bigger shake-ups to the traditional FLCL formula.
19 SKIP: THE JOURNEY HOME
The Journey Home sticks out among the rest of the season's anime by virtue of its visual style. It's computer animation, and not the cell-shaded style most CG anime stick to. The designs by Gwenpool artist team Gurihiru are cute (even if the bug characters don't have enough legs), and the animation quality is solid for TV.
Ultimately this show isn't bad, it's just that it's clearly for very young kids, and beyond the visual novelty, there's nothing to grab adults' attention. However, there is one thing which could possibly make this the must-see anime of the year: a dub in which Jerry Seinfeld plays the bee, and it's the surprise sequel to Bee Movie.
18 WATCH: ASOBI ASOBASE - WORKSHOP OF FUN -
How does a new show manage to stand out amidst all the "cute girls doing cute things" anime out there? Asobi Asobase - workshop of fun - has a special trick for standing out: its cute girls are all truly horrible people. Olivia's whole identity is a lie, Hanako only cares about popularity and Kasumi is the most psychotic of the bunch.
If you wish your moe anime were closer to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you'll get a kick out of this series. It's mean, it's ugly and who knows if this formula will work for the whole series, but for the premiere at least, it's also pretty freaking funny. Stick around through the credits for a bonus hand-puppet scene.
17 SKIP: DROP KICK ON MY DEVIL!
Of course, people being jerks doesn't always equal comedy gold. Just look at Drop Kick On My Devil!, a show which takes the popular monster girl genre and just makes it unpleasant. Each segment follows a basic formula wherein Jashin, the titular devil, tries to kill the sorceress Yurine, who violently punishes her in turn.
Violent slapstick can be hilarious if you have the right foundations. You at the very least need a good sense of timing, and characters who, if not likeable, should at least be well-defined. Drop Kick just throws the viewer into loud, annoying chaos without much reason to laugh or to care.
16 WATCH: HANEBADO!
One of the best things about anime in general is the way it can make make pretty much anything exciting. It's doubtful most people get super pumped up about badminton of all sports, but that all changes with Hanebado! This badminton anime is surprisingly intense and even emotional.
Hanebado! somehow manages to be effectively dramatic without tipping over into silliness. The fluid and detailed animation of the games does a lot to sell the excitement (even if some of the characters really need to get sports bras). There are minor fanservice elements, but nothing that detracts from the strength and believability of the female characters.
15 SKIP: HARUKANA RECEIVE
Now this the best show of all the ones on the "skip" side of the list, one which others could easily deem worthy of the "watch" side. Harukana Receive, an anime about girls playing beach volleyball, is OK. Thoroughly, perfectly OK. The characters? OK. The animation? OK. The comic relief? Also OK. The plot? It's girls playing beach volleyball, not that much yet, but serviceable.
If this is the type of show you want to watch, you're probably already watching it, and hopefully enjoying it. It's just so perfectly fine but utterly unexceptional that everyone else can safely give it a pass. It's cool to have two shows about female athletes this season, but Hanebado! is the more instantly gripping of the two.
14 WATCH: FREE! -DIVE TO THE FUTURE-
Though there have been a number of Free! spin-off films, it's been four years since the Iwatobi Swim Club last graced Japanese TV. Free! - Dive to the Future -, the third TV anime in the popular swimming boys series, finds the characters in new stages of life. Haru, Makoto and Rin are now at college, while Nagisa and Rei, still in high school, are recruiting new club members.
There are many new faces (some introduced in the spin-off movies but still new for TV viewers), but for now the main appeal is still the five old leads. Kyoto Animation's visual production continues to be as stunning as ever. The only disappointment so far is the ending theme isn't nearly as ridiculous as the first two.
13 SKIP: LORD OF VERMILION: THE CRIMSON KING
Great anime can take the mundane and make it astonishing. Bad anime, in contrast, takes stuff which should be exciting and makes it dull. Lord of Vermilion: The Crimson King has violent battles, fantasy powers, giant monsters and world-changing disasters. Somehow it turns so many things which should make for awesome viewing into a total snooze.
This is an adaptation of a Square Enix arcade fighting game. Like a many video game adaptations, it just doesn't hold together as an interesting narrative. The animation's nothing special, while the writing is actively pretentious. Quoting Shakespeare doesn't make your incoherent story deep!
12 WATCH: BANANA FISH
Arguably the most promising new show of the summer season is Banana Fish. Adapted from Akemi Yoshida's classic shojo manga, the series is a gritty thriller about a young American gang leader and a Japanese photographer thrust into uncovering a drug conspiracy.
Directed by Hiroko Utsumi (Free!) and written by Hiroshi Seko (Mob Psycho 100), this anime is fast paced, intense and gorgeously animated. There's plentiful eye-candy on both the action front and the hot guys front (the manga was influential in the BL genre). Its biggest problem so far is that the attempt to update the setting from from the '80s to the present feels poorly thought out, resulting in some parts being less believable. Even so, this is still a gripping story.
11 SKIP: HOW NOT TO SUMMON A DEMON LORD
How Not to Summon a Demon Lord might just take the crown for the worst anime of the year, or at the very least the worst first episode. Aggravating on numerous levels, it has some of the most offensive execution of one of the least original anime storylines around.
Once again, you have an anime where a video game-obsessed loser gets transported to a magical video game world where he's the most powerful person around. But that's not all! He also has two slaves fawning over him! And there's an extended non-consensual scene where he tortures one of them! Miyazaki was right. Anime was a mistake.
10 WATCH: CELLS AT WORK
Remember the movie Osmosis Jones? Imagine if it were an anime and a lot cuter. Now you have the basic idea of Cells at Work. The series' protagonist is a klutzy red blood cell who's new on the job. Over the course of the first episode, she has multiple run-ins with dangerous bacteria and a white blood cell who protects her.
This is an anime the whole family can watch together. It's funny and entertaining while also being educational. One can easily imagine middle school biology teachers using this show in their lesson plans. Above all else, it's almost sickeningly adorable. Your platelets have never been so kawaii.
9 SKIP: PLANET WITH
The line between "good weird" and "bad weird" in anime can be a thin one. One general sign that a show is gonna be "bad weird" is if the weirdness itself feels tired. So it is with Planet With, an anime you could commend for trying to be different if it wasn't so paradoxically generic.
Amnesiac protagonist? Boring. His magic maid? "Weird" but in the most cliche anime way, so still boring. His giant purple cat roommate? Okay, he's kind of cool. The mecha designs are interesting and maybe (hopefully) a decent story could emerge from all this nonsense, but unfortunately the first episode doesn't give much reason to care.
8 WATCH: LATE NIGHT! THE GENIUS BAKABON
Mr. Osomatsu was the surprise anime hit of 2015, giving the old (and internationally obscure) '60s sitcom Osomatsu-kun the irreverent Adult Swim treatment. Late night! The Genius Bakabon follows a similar formula, rebooting another classic anime from Osomatsu-kun's creator Fujio Akatsuka to an edgy late-night comedy.
The premiere episode of the new Bakabon is an extremely meta affair, with the patriarch of this family of idiots implementing increasingly ridiculous ideas to modernize the anime. While most of the jokes require some knowledge of Japanese pop culture, the outrageousness should entertain even those who don't "get" half of it. This episode is animated in a style uncannily similar to old-fashioned cell animation, though it seems future episodes will be done in a cleaner Flash style.
7 SKIP: ANGELS OF DEATH
Perhaps the unintentional comedy of the season, Angels of Death is the closest thing to a "so bad it's good" anime on this list. Your mileage may vary, of course, and one person's "so bad it's good" is another's "boring garbage." The anime's video game source material is supposedly quite good, but the appeal has been lost in the adaptation process.
This story of an amnesiac girl trapped in a building with a serial killer is trying so hard it's almost charming, but continually falls flat. It's laughable how many horror cliches it pulls out while never once being the least bit scary. If you want an anime seemingly transported from a 2005 Hot Topic, enjoy. Everyone else, stay away.
6 WATCH: ANGOLMOIS: RECORD OF MONGOL INVASION
Here's a show that came out of nowhere but is blowing away action fans. Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is a historical drama about a group of prisoners enlisted to fight off the Mongols' invasion of Japan in 1274. This is a period of history rarely covered in anime; it might not be completely historically accurate, but you still might learn something.
This is an anime for those who want intense, bloody, heart-pounding action. The fight scenes are excellently choreographed and animated, though sometimes the cinematography overuses filters. Character introductions are strong, giving the convicts and their princess boss enough spark to elevate them above plain archetypes and make you ready to care about them.
5 SKIP: THE MASTER OF RAGNAROK & BLESSER OF EINHERJAR
The Master of Ragnarok & The Blesser of Einherjar is less actively awful than How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. Both shows are about men sent to a fantasy world to kick butt and be fawned over by women, but in this one at least the man's not a jerk and the women aren't slaves. If this is your specific genre obsession, maybe you'll have some fun with this.
For everyone else though, Master of Ragnarok & The Long Title is dreadfully boring. The series is so focused on trying to make its hero awesome that it forgets to develop actual conflict. The animation's also awful, and considering how premiere episodes typically showcase a show's best animation, this doesn't bode well.
4 WATCH: CHIO'S SCHOOL ROAD
This one's a charmer. Chio's School Road has maybe the simplest premise of any anime this season: it's just about one girl trying to get to school on time. Episodes are divided into 11 minute segments and it's always the same premise. Within that basic formula, though, the show gets wildly creative and funny.
Chio's a hardcore gamer, and her attempts to apply video game logic to the task of finding the quickest route to school provide plentiful laughs. The segments smartly escalate in craziness, beginning with the same mundane starting point but going in unexpected directions. If the full series keeps up this quality, we have a winner.
3 SKIP: ISLAND
ISLAND isn't completely awful so much as it is just instantly forgettable. In a way, that quality's awfully fitting for the third show on this list trying to build a mystery around an amnesiac protagonist. Based on a dating sim video game, the first episode of ISLAND alternates between introducing potential love interests and trying to be all mysterious.
The sexual content's not explicit but it's definitely uncomfortable how young all the girls seem to be compared to the main character. Even if you can overlook that major issue, though, there's just not much to recommend about this utterly unimpressive anime.
2 WATCH: HOLMES OF KYOTO
This is the most tentative of the recommendations on this list, given a good chunk of viewers are almost certain to be bored by Holmes of Kyoto. This is basically Antiques Roadshow the anime, and it's not like there's some ultra-dramatic twist or anything. There's pretty much no action, most of the premiere episode just being a few people talking in an antique shop.
Still, there's something charming about it. Holmes, the antique appraiser with Sherlock-esque deduction abilities, and Aoi, the new girl at the shop, have great chemistry. The hints of romance are cute, while the offbeat subject matter allows for some genuinely interesting diversions about history and culture. This one is worth giving a chance, even if it's not your thing.
1 SKIP: MUSIC GIRLS
Idol anime aren't for everyone, but there is a fanbase which loves this genre. The positive energy of Love Live, the sci-fi wackiness of AKB0048 and the polished artistry of Idolmaster all attract serious followings. Unfortunately, given mediocre reception all around, it seems not even the serious idol fans are digging Music Girls.
This is a show which isn't awful but is just extremely mediocre. Some of this is, ironically, is by design: the central musical group of the show isn't supposed to be that good. There's an inkling of an idea for a decent comedy there, and the weeaboo main character provides some humor. The cast as a whole, however, seems poorly fleshed-out, and the presentation is pedestrian.