Now that we’re three weeks into the winter 2016 anime season, we have a pretty good idea about how these shows are shaping up. There are shows we are excited for, shows we’re mildly interested in, and still others we’re willing to let slip for a couple weeks. To help you navigate through this season, we have decided to give a little insight into what we three see as the 5 best shows to watch this season. Think of it as your guide to the winter 2016, or an idea of what you might want to binge watch in the months following winter’s end. Either way we hope you enjoy our picks, as we spent a considerable amount of time debating which ones would make our top 5. In no particular order, here are our early impressions of the shows you should be watching this winter season!
Going into this season many fans considered Erased an interesting premise, but were weary about how well it would be executed. After three weeks of being glued to our monitors over this show, it’s fair to say that this show executes its premise very well. This mystery with a touch of supernatural is the talk of the season, and with very good reason. It commands the audience to pay attention, lest they miss something critical to solving the mystery. The amount of deliberation and conversation that Erased has elicited in its first 3 episodes is astonishing in its own right. It’s hard to believe that this amazing anime won’t be a top 5 show come the end of the season.
The story centers around Satoru, and his mysterious ability to travel back in time to correct problems. His ability is involuntary, and he needs his full attention to make use of it. Without spoiling much, something happens in episode one that sends him back to 1988. In 1988 he resolves to stop a string of murders that happened in that year to kids in his class. He remembers moments from his past, and tries to change them through his actions to save these people in the future.
Erased uses this premise and a suspenseful soundtrack to move you. Moments of heartwarming emotion break the tension, and have moved me to tears already. The visuals are drab, but put you in the moment of the Winter of 1988. Every moment of Erased pulls you in, and makes you hyper aware of its world. Very seldom is immersion broken, and from the onset you are drawn into helping Satoru solve the mystery. To make my tedious gushing shorter, if you’re not watching it now you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. –Carlos
Snow White with the Red Hair
The first season of Snow White with the Red Hair was one of my favorite anime of last year. It’s not often that we get a pure romance anime, and that is what makes this show so great. Picking up right where the first season ended, we get to see Shirayuki and Zen continue to feel out their relationship and do what’s necessary to make it happen. There were many that worried that the story would stagnate after the great ending of the previous season, but with the introduction of new characters, and the choices of some of the main cast, the narrative remains interesting and will only become more so.
Visually, Snow White with the Red Hair is as beautiful as ever with its vibrant, water-color art and distinct character designs. The music retains its folksy tone and really helps this feel like the fantasy world that it is. As someone who has read the manga and knows where this story goes, I’m excited to see the rest of this season play out. The first three episodes have set the stage for another awesome season. Definitely check Snow White with the Red Hair out if you haven’t already! — Logan
KONOSUBA -God’s blessing on this wonderful world!
(Carlos was nice enough to throw me a bone here, since I had the unfortunate luck of not picking a show that made our top five this season. Thanks buddy!)
Konosuba might be the most controversial show on our top five this season. In the synopsis we have a show about a game obsessed hikikomori, who is transported to a fantasy game-like world and tasked with defeating the demon king. Sound familiar? It may not have a unique premise on the surface, but giving this show a single episode will reveal so much more.
What the recently popular “stuck in a game world” genre may have been missing is a show that didn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what we have here. Konosuba has a quirky cast of characters who fit into your typical fantasy archetypes, but are far from your typical heroes. With personalities like a mage who put all of her skill points into a single skill, a masochistic knight, and goddess who is far less capable than she thinks, you have plenty of humorous moments. Put them all in a world that is completely ridiculous in its own right, and you have a recipe for comedic gold. While some of the jokes play off of our expectations of the genre, it shouldn’t be dismissed as simply a parody. Adding plenty of its own twists, this is a show that will also have you eager to see what craziness the next episode has in store. Some people are turned off by the art and animation, which admittedly is not the show’s strength, but I think the unpolished look gives it character. Even if you aren’t into RPG’s or fantasy, give Konosuba a shot. You will know after one episode if its going to work for you. — Jeff
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Lately there have been a lot of “trapped in a game” anime or anime with RPG elements into them. I personally love this style of show, but Grimgar takes it to a place not yet seen in this genre. To be fair, the RPG elements are very few and I almost hesitate to equate it with those other “game” shows. The only points that give that impression are that they have no memory but do know they aren’t from this world, the joining of guilds, and the ability to learn skills.
What really sets this show apart from the rest, however, is how brutal and real their situation is. Often we get to see the fun and interesting aspects of these fantasy worlds, but Grimgar paints a more realistic image. Goblins are not just things to kill for money; they have a will to live and will fight with desperation to avoid that final breath, just as you or I would. The biggest joy is not throwing a party or hauling in a big kill, but a fresh pair of underwear. Grimgar has me on edge every second because in this world, death is not an after thought, it’s very real. If you don’t hunt, you don’t eat, and your prey is in the same boat. It’s a brutal world.
The art is fantastic; every backdrop looks like a painting. The character designs are pleasant and the voice acting is superb. The music was not exactly what I would have expected coming in, but it works with the show and I have found it quite enjoyable. There are a lot of phenomenal shows this season, but if Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash can maintain its tone, it will be a contender for anime of the season. — Logan
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
This was a show that wasn’t even on my radar this season. In fact it was my 4th pick in the seasonal picks between us writers, but I couldn’t be happier with this show. It takes a relatively unknown era (to western audiences) in Japan, and puts it on display with a relatively unknown form of Japanese entertainment. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (heretofore referred to as Shouwa) tells a tale of Japanese Rakugo, which is a type of storytelling performance in Japan. The performance is like a one-man-show, with the storyteller playing multiple roles in an often humorous tale.
Shouwa takes place over several years, but it begins somewhere between the 60’s and 70’s. A young man named Yotarou leaves jail, determined to beg a rakugo actor to take him on as an apprentice. The target or Yotarou’s admiration is an actor named Kikuhiko, and he convinces the old man to take him on as an apprentice. The former jailbird moves into the old rakugo actor’s house, and meets Konatsu the daughter of Kikuhiko’s deceased friend. After getting better at his new craft, Yotarou embaresses his teacher and is almost expelled. The only thing that saves Yotarou is a promise to Kikuhiko. To help his apprentice and his old friend’s daughter understand his promise, Kikuhiko resolves to tell them the story of his past.
Despite my horrendous synopsis, you should be watching this anime. The first episode is 45 mins of pure entertainment magic, and the visuals really bring you to the era of a time before mass media entertainment. The rakugo performances throughout the show are captivating, funny, and interesting. They really give you a window into the Japanese entertainment industry pre-anime, and the visuals really make you interested in that period of time in Japan. It’s certainly not a show for everyone, but if you enjoy interesting content with splash of the educational then this is not a show you should miss. –Carlos
When I watched the first episode of this second season of Gate, it was like being reunited with an old friend. I enjoyed season one, and continue to enjoy season two for the same reasons. Gate is a truly fun show to watch, but its disappointingly forgettable writing and annoying over the top Japanese nationalism nudge it out of the top five. If you enjoyed season one, you should definitely continue watching though. –Jeff
BBK/BRNK blazed out of the gate with an incredibly impressive first episode that had me giddy with anticipation. Unfortunately the following couple episodes were less exciting. This story has potential to bloom into something wonderful, but its not top five material at this point. The completely CG style might be a game breaker for some. –Jeff
I wasn’t sure if I’d like Dagashi Kashi when I first saw the art, but after a couple of episodes I’m hooked on it. The art is perfectly ridiculous, and that 100% fits the overall feel of the show. The overreactions by the characters, the fan service, and hilarious snack adventures have me in stitches week-to-week. The thing that keeps it from the top spots of the early season is that this show sometimes feels like a 30 minute advertisement for Japanese junk food. It’s worth a watch if you love the absurd though. –Carlos
Myriad Colors Phantom World
Kyoto Animation is usually all that you need to get me on board with an anime. I love the art direction, I love the story-telling, I love everything. Myriad Colors Phantom World hits all the right notes so far. Exploring different ideas, from memory to escapism, this show depicts an interesting world with infinite possibilities. The one knock that made it hard to put in the top 5 is that early on it has felt episodic. If it can pull its narrative together into a cohesive story, it can easily be one of the better anime of this season. — Logan
Those are our favorite shows of the season thus far. “What about your other seasonal picks” you ask? Well for now they didn’t quite make the cut of shows you really need to be watching in our opinion, that or they aren’t available (legally) in the west yet. Stick around to see if any of these change come the end of the season, and catch our thoughts week-to-week here and on social media. Disagree with our assertions? Let us know in the comments below, on Twitter, or on our unfortunately static-named Facebook page. For Logan, Jeff, and myself (Carlos) thank you for reading, and enjoy the winter 2016 anime season!