First Impressions | Winter 2018 Anime
I’m calling it now: 2018 will be an amazing year for anime.
Between the highly anticipated returns of immensely popular series and a handful of promising adaptations, there are plenty of reasons to get excited this year.
January kicked off with the release of Devilman Crybaby, which was quite a provocative and jaw-dropping ride, to say the least. And there’s only more to come as Netflix announced that they’re planning to produce and release a whopping 30 anime series this year alone.
While we’re on the topic of streaming giants, Amazon has discontinued their Anime Strike program – goodbye totally unnecessary double paywall! Now you can watch Amazon exclusive series with a standard Amazon Prime account (psst, I highly recommend Made in Abyss and Welcome to the Ballroom). Now if Netflix could simulcast in the U.S. instead of holding series for months until they finish airing elsewhere, that would be perfect.
There’s a lot to look forward to later in the year, which is probably why the winter 2018 season feels like a warmup for what’s to come. Like with all seasons of anime, I made a list of five series to watch as they air; I usually give each series three episodes before deciding whether or not I should keep watching.
I’m also continuing with two series that carried over from the last season: The Ancient Magus’ Bride and March Comes in like a Lion. Both are amazing and should be on your watch list if they aren’t on there already. But we’re not here to talk about last year; if you’re unsure of what to watch this season, I hope these synopses and first impressions can give you an idea of what to expect and what to try.
1 | Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
Picking up where Cardcaptor Sakura ended, the series follows Sakura Kinomoto and her friends as they begin what she was expecting to be a normal and peaceful middle school life. However, after having a premonitory dream, she wakes up to find that the cards that she had worked so hard to seal have all turned clear. Shortly after, she realizes that there’s a new set of cards that needs capturing and a new mystery that needs solving.
Japanese Title: Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen
Genre: Shoujo, Adventure, Magic, Romance
Air Date: 7 January 2018
Source: Manga by CLAMP
Director: Asaka Morio
Opening: "CLEAR" by Maaya Sakamoto
Ending: "Jewelry" by Saori Hayami
My initial excitement for the return of a childhood favorite was quickly crushed when I realized that I forgot most of what happened in the original series. The first episode wastes no time and dives straight into the story like as if the first part didn’t end nearly twenty years ago. Now I’m not saying that my memory is bad, but twenty years is plenty of time for details to get lost.
There was definitely a satisfying wave of nostalgia which had a lot to do with the colors, animation, and music – definitely a strong 90s kid vibe in the best way possible. All of your favorite characters are back, so it should be a fun watch. I can’t say I’m a fan of the odd pacing or a plot that feels like a rehash of the original series, but I’m going to do my 6-year-old self a huge favor and continue watching the series for the time being.
2 | Skilled Teaser Takagi-San
Japanese Title: Karakai Jozu no Takagi-san
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Romance
Air Date: 8 January 2018
Studio: Shin-Ei Animation
Source: Manga by Yamamoto Souichirou
Opening: "Iwanai kedo ne." by Yuiko Oohara
Ending: "Kimagure Romantic" by Takahashi Rie
It’s an episodic series of a middle school student named Nishikata who tries to embarrass his seat neighbor Takagi, only to get tricked by her every single time.
I think this series would be better as a short, rather than full episodes made up of shorts as it can get predictable and repetitive at times. Still, it’s nice to take a break from dramas and thrillers once in a while. The series is a simple slice-of-life that’s fun, laid-back and easy to digest.
3 | School Babysitters
After their parents died in a plane crash, Ryuichi and his little brother Kotaro are taken in by the Morinomiya Academy chairwoman, who lost her son in the same tragedy. Although strict, she’s willing to provide for the brothers under one condition: that Ryuichi joins the school’s babysitter club to watch over a gang of rambunctious little kiddies.
Japanese Title: Gakuen Babysitters
Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy
Air Date: 7 January 2018
Studio: Brain's Base
Source: Manga by Tokeino Hari
Opening: "Endless Happy World" by Daisuke Ono
Ending: "Oshiete yo" by Hyorotto Danshi (cast)
Right off the bat, this anime is disgustingly cute. Sure, the round-bellied toddlers are way out of proportion and Kotaro shouldn’t be that perceptive, but their antics are so adorably sweet that I couldn’t care less about them or the cavities forming in my teeth. Like Skilled Teaser Takagi-San, it’s one of those lighter series that you can sit back, turn off your brain for a bit and enjoy. Although, the first episode did punch me right in the emotions; I’m interested to see how the story develops as the brothers come to terms with their loss.
4 | A Place Further Than the Universe
Japanese Title: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
Air Date: 2 January 2018
Director: Ishizuka Atsuko
Opening: "The Girls Are Alright!" by saya
Ending: "Koko kara, Koko kara" by cast
After realizing how underwhelming her first year in high school was, Mari Tamaki craves adventure. However, she lacks the confidence to go out of her comfort zone. That changes when she meets Shirase, a fellow student who is dead-set on going to Antarctica to find her mom who went missing three years ago. Although the odds are stacked against her, Tamaki is moved by her determination and joins Shirase in her journey to Antarctica.
With good animation, spot-on music, endearing characters and feel-good moments, this series is easily my favorite out of the five. Although the idea of high school girls going to Antarctica sounds ridiculous at first, it’s grounded by the expressive characters, their unique goals, the challenges they face and what they each gain from going on this expedition together.
As of now, the series feels more like a slice-of-life rather than an adventure, but I’m not complaining since the story so far has been well-paced, engaging and heartwarming. Still, I look forward to their future adventure and development!
5 | Darling in the FranXX
After the world became a barren wasteland riddled with huge and dangerous mechanical creatures called klaxosaurs, mankind was forced into mobile fort-like settlements. To fend off against the destructive beasts, select children are trained in male-female pairs to pilot giant robots called the FranXX. After failing to sync with his partner, Hiro had no will to move forward until he met a mysterious girl named Zero Two.
Genre: Mecha, Sci-Fi
Air Date: 13 January 2018
Studio: Trigger, A-1 Pictures
Rating: N/A (I'll say PG-13 but will revise if needed)
Director: Nishigori Atsushi
Opening: "Kiss of Death" by Mika Nakashima x Hyde
Ending: "Torikago" by XX:me (cast)
With all the slice-of-life series I’m watching this season, I thought it’d be nice to balance them with an action-packed mecha anime. I was particularly excited about this one because it’s a collaboration between Trigger Studio (Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia) and A-1 Pictures (Seven Deadly Sins and Your Lie in April). However, I think my expectations were a bit too high since it currently feels like I'm watching Evangelion with a dash of Gurren Lagann a pinch of Pacific Rim. But since we're only one episode in, I think it's still too early to decide.
The narrative, when you stop comparing it to Evangelion, animation, and music are solid. Plus, I have faith in these two powerhouse studios and the team behind the series, so I want to give it another chance before deciding to drop it altogether.
[UPDATE] I'm a few episodes in and I can't get over how stupid the butt control is. Still entertaining enough to keep on going though.
Side note: I did not include Devilman Crybaby in the lineup because the entire series is already out on Netflix. At this point, I’d be writing a review rather than a first impression. But if you want to see a series that pushes boundaries and you don’t mind extremely violent and sexual scenes, definitely check it out. It’s all everyone’s talking about and understandably so.
Of all the series coming out this winter, Violet Evergarden was the one I was most excited for. I was so prepared for absolutely stunning animation and a rollercoaster of emotions beautifully wrapped in a unique story. Unfortunately, Netflix got the rights so fans in the U.S. are forced to wait months before they can watch it there. Can I last until then? Like everyone else, probably not.
I actually started watching this series, but I think I’ll save it for when I drop any of the anime above. It’s as slice-of-life-y as you can get, with school girls going on camping trips. It feels like a fun and cheerful camping PSA, which I’m all for.
I must be in a slice-of-life mood because I’ve never piled on so many of them in a single season. But like I said earlier, it’s a warmup of what’s to come in 2018! So, what are you watching this season?