As a new year begins, so too does the 2018 winter anime season in Japan. Now, thanks to video streaming services like Crunchyroll, Amazon, and Netflix, they’re more accessible than ever. (Subtitled versions of most shows are available in America within a day of release.)
With 50 different series hitting the air this season, there’s a lot to choose from, so we’ve picked the highlights and broken them down based on their specific appeal.
If you like teen drama and Pacific Rim
Darling in the Franxx
In the far future, giant robots called Franxx protect the fortress city of Plantation and the remnants of humanity from giant monsters. Naturally, they are piloted by teenagers who work in pairs, much like the heroes of Pacific Rim. Our protagonist, Hiro, is a Franxx prodigy, but he hasn’t been able to find a partner to help him pilot his giant robot — until he meets a very special girl with horns.
The show has an eclectic staff including animation studio Trigger (Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia), director Atsushi Nishigori (Gurren Lagann) and character designer Masayoshi Tanaka (Your Name) At the very least, this show should look beautiful.
Darling in the Franxx airs January 13th, and will stream on Crunchyroll.
If you like supernatural horror and avant-garde animation
A new adaptation of the 1972 comic Devilman by Go Nagai, Devilman Crybaby follows Akira and Ryo as they try to prevent demons from destroying all of humanity. In order to battle those demons, Akira allows himself to become possessed by one so he can harness its powers as the aforementioned Devilman. Although this grants him special abilities, some of the demon’s personality also starts to bleed through in his everyday life.
What’s interesting about this show isn’t just that it’s another Devilman adaptation, but that it’s director Masaaki Yuasa making it. Yuasa is well-known as an anime director for making critically acclaimed series like Ping Pong and The Tatami Galaxy. His works don’t have a unified look or design, but they share an evocative, minimalist style of animation. It will be fascinating to see how he brings this aesthetic to the world of Devilman.
All 10 episodes of Devilman Crybaby will stream on Netflix starting January 5th.
If you want a near-future crime thriller from the studio that brought you Ghost in the Shell
B: The Beginning
We don’t know much about this show yet, but it seems to be a near-future crime drama about a legendary investigator looking for a mysterious serial killer named Killer B. There’s a sci-fi twist as well: in this alternate universe, scientists have created “new humans” that are supposed to bring about world peace, but are kidnapped by an evil organization.
Kazuto Nakazawa — who directed the anime sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1 — is at the helm, and the animation production is being handled by Production I.G, makers of all the Ghost in the Shell animated shows. It’s hard to say if this show will be any good, or even interesting, but it has potential.
All 12 episodes of the series will stream exclusively on Netflix starting March 2nd.
If you like cute stories about action, magic, and school life
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card
Clear Card is a continuation of the now-classic Cardcaptor Sakura series, based on the CLAMP story about an elementary school student named Sakura who accidentally released 52 powerful and sentient magical cards from a magical book. The new series finds her starting middle school, and trying to figure out why all the magical cards have suddenly become clear.
Animation studio Madhouse, which animated the original series, along with shows like One Punch Man and ACCA, returns to the new series along with director Morio Asaka, writer Nanase Ohkawa, and much of the original voice cast. Since it’s been nearly 20 years since the original series aired, it’ll potentially be a friendly jumping-on point for people unfamiliar with the original.
Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card starts airing January 6th, and will stream on Crunchyroll.
If you like The Shape of Water or Celtic mythology
The Ancient Magus’ Bride
I wrote about the Ancient Magus’ Bride in the fall preview, and although there are a few other shows continuing into the winter season, this is the one to catch up on. The fantasy series follows Chise, a mage apprentice and fiancée to the monstrous-looking sorcerer Elias. As Chise starts to learn more about the magical side of the modern world, she also starts to learn more about herself. It’s an interesting combination of drama, comedy, horror, action, and romance with a bit of Celtic mythology thrown into the mix that will propel you down more than a few wiki holes as it shows up.
The first season of 12 episodes is available to stream on Crunchyroll; the new season starts January 6th.
If you like incredibly bizarre body horror
Junji Ito: Collection
Manga author Junji Ito is renowned for his bizarre and terrifying horror comics like Uzumaki (about a town haunted by spirals) and Enigma of Amigara Fault (about a cliff face with human-shaped holes that call to the people who would fit inside them). His work often mixes absurdity with body horror, and this animated anthology is no exception.
This series draws from the shorter comics in Fragments of Horror and the Junji Ito Masterpiece Collection, and will feature different stories in each episode. Ito’s craft as a writer and artist is incredible, and for those able to handle the disturbing nature of his work, this show is a must-see.
Junji Ito: Collection starts January 5th, and will be streaming on Crunchyroll.
If you like time-stopping sci-fi and mysterious monsters
Juri is a young woman living at home with her family when her brother is kidnapped by a strange cult that threatens to murder him if they aren’t paid within 30 minutes. In order to attempt a rescue, her grandfather shows her a strange rock allows them to stop time. But they soon discover they aren’t the only people with this power — and there are monsters waiting for them the world of frozen time.
The descriptions of the series that call it a horror drama mystery, and the monster designs in the trailer are a bit reminiscent of Ajin: Demi Human. I’m really curious to see how this show unfolds.
Kokkoku will stream on Amazon Prime Video beginning January 8th.
If you like questions about whether an android is a person, beautiful animation, and don’t mind waiting
Violet is an Auto Memories Doll, a type of android originally created by a scientist to transcribe the words of his blind wife. After a four-year civil war where Auto Memories Dolls were used as military weapons, Violet tries to start a new life working for a postal service, where she hopes to discover the meaning of the words an officer told her on the battlefield. The show is made Kyoto Animation, the studio behind the excellent A Silent Voice.
Violet Evergarden airs in Japan on January 10th. It will stream on Netflix in Japan, but likely won’t be available elsewhere until sometime in the spring.