When it comes to anime, 2020 is as fraught with uncertainty as life itself.
It’s not a surprise that the outcome I predicted in the Spring preview came to pass – it was easy to see coming. The season was indeed rife with postponements, some mid-stream and some before shows even started. I consider myself fortunate in that at least a few of the series I’m following have thus far survived (though Major 2nd had a long hiatus). But this season has been anything but normal.
Summer, if anything, promises to be worse. A good chunk of the schedule has already been postponed – some to fall, some even longer. Even if everything currently listed as a summer premiere aired as normal, it would still be by far the smallest anime season in my blogging years – if it weren’t for the decimation of this one. There’s no way I can do anything close to a usual preview for such an unusual season, but I’ll preview those few series that interest me which have yet to be officially pushed back.
The big variable, I think, is all those suspended Winter and Spring shows. A couple have restarted, a few more have announced prospective restart dates. Will the suspended Spring season in effect replace the Summer season? What we don’t know is how quickly production can ramp back up (partly because we don’t know how the pandemic will progress). But even more, we don’t know if every suspended anime will be finished at all. I fear some of the less financially secure series (effectively everything not a WSJ or other high-selling manga adaptation, CGDCT or LN) might be abandoned altogether by production committees rather than finished behind schedule.
In a sense, I think anime is wrestling with the same dilemma as professional sports leagues around the world. Do they complete their suspended seasons – creating a domino effect on future ones – or abandon them? Money is the guiding factor in most of those cases and I suspect anime will be much the same. My bet would be that most shows do get finished and the calendar roughly gets pushed back 1-2 seasons, but that a statistically significant minority of riskier series are abandoned. I hope I’m wrong in that bet.
So then, can I even preview Summer as a whole from a content standpoint? Can I make a guess as to what sort of season it would have been if none of this had happened? I mean, I could – but I don’t know if there’s much to be gained. There were a couple of postponed Summer shows I’d have previewed at a minimum – Haikyuu and Higurashi sequels for example – but it was already looking like a pretty soft season (as summer often is, but also reflecting a general downward quality trend for anime). Now? It’s truly grim. But times are tough all over…
Content-wise, for most fans the season is going to be dominated by the three delayed sequels to blockbuster LN adaptations – SAO, Oregairu, and Re:Zero – but those shows aren’t really on my radar. Barely more than a dozen titles remain apart from those so it’s pretty tough to spot any trends. A lot of battle shounen and hentai per capita it seems to me, and one or two outliers. By a wide margin the most interesting of those is the new Tachikawa Yuzuru original Deca-Dence. Apart from that it’s pretty much hoping Major 2nd stays in production and hoping Kingdom eventually joins it.
With that, let’s move on to the preview. As usual, the (short) poll is in the sidebar – please go vote!
Deca-Dence – Nut: (PV) For me any Tachikawa Yuzuru anime is an event. Any original anime all the more so, and Deca-Dence is his first since Death Parade. What I’ve really been jonesing for, though, is the next Tachikawa-written series, and for that we’ll have to keep waiting for now. Perhaps Death Parade was the story he’d been dreaming of telling and he has no such inspiration in its wake – who knows. But Tachikawa remains the most interesting young director in anime, so any show he’s directing goes to the top of the list.
This time around Tachikawa is working with most of his usual collaborators but after directing at titans Madhouse and Bones, this time around the studio is the relatively unknown Nut. One of those collaborators is writer Seko Hiorshi, who handled series composition on Mob Psycho 100 and has largely done adaptations, mostly (though not always) exemplary. As we know this role is hugely important on original series, but we just don’t have much to go on with Seko there. He seems very competent and Tachikawa obviously respects him and enjoys working with him, but this is the great unknown with Deca-Dence.
I know only as much as the synopsis and the PV tell us, which isn’t a lot, but it’s hard not to get excited at the prospect of Tachikawa and Kurita Shinichi working on a mecha anime. At some point in the distant dystopian future the dregs of humanity survive in a giant mobile fortress called “Deca-Dence” (it got its own designer), hiding from a life form called the Gadoll. There’s also a cynical dude-genki girl odd couple dynamic. It sounds pretty generic for this sort of show to be honest, but Deca-Dence is all about the staff list, and if it’s going to be great (as certainly seems possible) it’s almost surely the execution that will drive it.
Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 – Science SARU: (PV) Yuasa Masaaki and his team are back, this time with an updating of a novel that’s already seen three (not very well-received) live-action adaptations. Sakyo Komatsu’s book was published in 1973 and is generally regarded as a pillar of Japanese sci-fi. Given its premise – a middle-school girl and her younger brother try to survive after a massive earthquake strikes Tokyo – one wouldn’t be out of line in wondering if Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was among the works influenced by it. Yuasa has Netflix money behind him for this 10-episode venture, which is actually showing in competition as a film at Annecy (which has moved online for this year’s festival).
Yuasa recently stepped down as president at SARU, but my assumption is that’s so he can focus more heavily on making movies himself. The studio is certainly incredibly busy with both film and TV work, and that may have taken a bit of a toll on the quality of their output. But Japan Sinks looks like meatier material than Yuasa has been tackling lately, and the early buzz has been very positive.
Great Pretender – Wit: (PV) The first thing I said when this show was announced was “if it doesn’t have the Platters’ song as the OP it’s an epic fail”. Well, they went with the excellent Freddy Mercury cover version, but that’s good enough for me. Thanks, Netflix money – and that money is also of course the reason Great Pretender actually premiered on Netflix Japan June 2. That means I have the same dilemma as with BNA – whether to wait for the TV/streaming releases or cover it as it’s subbed – and for now I plan to treat it the same way.
This is an interesting premise – a Japanese con man gets ripped off by a French con man and chases him to L.A. to try and get his ill-gotten fortune back. Wit has put together an outstanding staff including director Kaburagi Hiro, writer Kosawa Ryota and legendary Gainax character designer Sadamoto Yoshiyuki. As this is an original show Kosawa is a key figure of course, and while he’s largely unknown in anime he’s compiled a very solid resume in movies and TV. I think that background is a good fit for this sort of story, and the previews have been pretty impressive. There are too many unknowns to feel certain, and Netflix has yet to produce anything great – but especially with 23 episodes to work with Great Pretender seems like a series with an awful lot of potential.
Muhyo to Rouji no Mahouritsu Soudan Jimusho 2nd Season – Deen: (PV) Even with a sequel manga starting up I was still surprised to see Muhyo and Rouji get a second season (effectively a split cour). I wouldn’t say I love this show or anything but it’s a pretty serviceable supernatural shounen. I didn’t finish covering the first season and under normal circumstances I suspect I’d probably just watch this one, but with the season being as stripped-down as it is I’m not ruling anything out.
Ikebukuro West Gate Park – Doga Kobo: There’s something a bit Durarara in the synopsis for this story about a guy who keeps getting reluctantly dragged into settling gang disputes in Ikebukuro. IWGP is actually quite a well-known property in Japan, where Ishida Ira’s novels have already been adapted into a mega-hit TV series. It doesn’t sound all that interesting a premise to be honest, but who knows, there might be something here.
The God of High School – MAPPA: (PV) Another manhwa makes its way to the screen, this time with a Korean director (a rarity in anime though not unheard of). The plot sounds pretty generic – students in Korea vie in a national competition to find the strongest fighter, with the ultimate tournament winner getting any wish granted (yeah, that sounds trustworthy). It’s pretty popular and there’s not much competition, so I’ll give The God of High School a shot without the burden of high expectations.
Gibiate – ???: (PV) An original series whose main claim to fame is Final Fantasy creator Yoshitaka Amano’s involvement (as character designer). A show about a post-viral pandemic dystopia seems like an awkward fit for 2020 – and indeed, Giabate won’t be airing on terrestrial TV as a result. I have no reason to suspect this show is going to be anything memorable, but there’s a certain curiosity factor that piques my interest.
Will Definitely Blog: Deca-Dence
Sleepers: None (yes, that is an LiA season preview first)
Resuming After Production Suspension: Fugou Keiji: Balance:UNLIMITED (7/16) (no date yet for Kingdom or Appare Ranman).
Almost the second straight shut-out for this category.
Planetarian: Snow Globe – 09/20: (PV) Based on a drama CD from the rather engaging Key visual novel.
In addition to the below, we may yet see some postponed theatrical releases get new dates something during the summer season – though the flipside is that some of the scheduled releases could get pushed back.
Kud Wafter – 09/20: (PV) God damn, Little Busters‘ best girl (on this, there can be no debate) finally gets her side story adapted. The production committee went the Kickstarter route for this for whatever reason – which I find irritating given that the LitBus anime was very profitable – but the project blew past its initial target in less than a day. As a result (I suspect this was the plan all along) the idea of an episode-length OVA was expanded to a movie, and more Kud is always a good thing.
Shika no Ou – 09/18/20: (PV) Any time Uehashi Nahoko (Seirei no Moribito) gets an adaptation, it’s news. As usual she’s partnered with Production I.G. Big-time animator Andou Masashi gets his first high-profile directorial role with Uehashi’s Shika no Ou, the story of a group of soldiers ordered to sacrifice themselves, whose leader instead finds himself enslaved and forced to work in a salt mine. This one has pandemic themes too, though I suspect that won’t be a big issue because of the fantasy element. I don’t know the source material – there are no translations as far as I know – but when the author of the greatest TV anime ever is involved, I pay attention.