A new year brings with it a new anime season. And with the comforting regularity of a pendulum hitting a rock on the side of your head with every swing, isekai anime continues to dominate seasonal output. Luckily, in a medium that’s increasingly reliant on safe, regurgitated series of tentpoles and schlocks — there are a few standouts each season who manage to stay afloat on the rushing river of trash.
“Demon Slayer” is not included in this list because if you like “Demon Slayer” you are already watching it. I’ve already reviewed the first season and explained why I find it mediocre and uninteresting; but if that’s your jam, then there’s a new season going on right now.
Here are the shows I’m watching this winter:
My darling dressing
The odd name pretty much sums up the plot of this anime. A guy named Gojo who has an affinity for traditional Japanese dolls (and who lives and works in a studio dedicated to them) befriends one of the school’s most popular and beautiful girls after having learned that he can sew. She asks him to help her create the perfect cosplay of a video game character she loves. The shy, reserved and slightly quirky Gojo, who eventually made his first friend in high school with the gorgeous Marin, must now navigate tricky social situations and learn more about the intense and dedicated world of cosplay to bring the vision Lifetime Sailor.
With gorgeous animation, likable protagonists, and occasionally cute flirtations, the anime explores the ability of traditional Japanese culture to evolve into today’s popular otaku culture. All the while, he entertains Marin’s over-the-top flirtation with Gojo in a way that, while unrealistic and especially for fanboys, still gives the show a kind of wholesome innocence despite its lustful moments. While the majority of male characters in series with similar situations are either total creeps or boring, innocent Puritans, Gojo is multi-dimensional enough to be less of a self-insert and more of an actual character.
“My Dress Up Darling” certainly isn’t a universal recommendation, but it turns the simple plot of a girl wanting to cosplay into a gripping romantic comedy.
Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation
Attack on Titan Season Finale Part 2
Attack on Titan wraps up its incredible story with a final set of episodes focused on the Paradise War. With fantastic animation, a great opening, and each episode ending with a biting cliffhanger, Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2 is sure to leave fans nervous, eagerly awaiting the next episode every week.
You can check out my review of part one here for a better idea of what to expect.
Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation
The stranger rides into town on a giant crab, a bow slung over his shoulder, his arrows capable of manifesting giant mushrooms that infect anything they pierce like a parasite. Pursued by the government and labeled a terrorist, this mushroom grower knows that his mushrooms actually contribute to purifying the post-apocalyptic Japan he travels through; while everyone blames him and the mushrooms for a mysterious disease known as “rust” that is killing the population.
With steampunk planes that are actually slugs, rhinos equipped with rocket launchers and a bunny-masked force carrying special agents; “Sabikui Bisco” is the kind of utter weirdness that made me fall in love with anime decades ago. It feels like a show that would have been released comfortably in the 90s or early 2000s and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise turgid season.
The hero, Bisco Akaboshi, is a manly action hero with a dedicated goal and a sense of humor. Facing an adversary, he declares “What did I do, kill your family?” with the aplomb of an 80s action hero. It’s a series that never stops moving, with lots of action, comedy and a particularly bizarre world.
I’m not sure exactly where the series will take us or if it can maintain the momentum it achieved in the first three episodes, but it’s well worth any action fan’s time.
Available on Crunchyroll
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean
In December, I reviewed the first set of episodes
for ‘Stone Ocean’, a fantasy arc in the long-running JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure series. The first twelve episodes have dropped on Netflix and it is assumed that every three months the streaming platform will offer another twelve episodes. This means that we can probably expect the second part of Stone Ocean to appear in March. Stone Ocean is probably as good as the show since the Pits introduction in Part 3 and Jolyne Cujo one of the best main characters in the show. I gave this first set of episodes a perfect score and I only expect the series to get weirder and more intense. If you haven’t already caught up with it, I implore you to try.
Available on Netflix
Lupine III Part 6
Speaking of part six, let’s talk about ‘Lupin III’. The original anime series began in 1971, and the iconic character has been in multiple TV series, movies, OVAs, and more. Throughout this time, Lupine and his friends have starred in more films than James Bond; but it wasn’t until the TV revival of the series in 2015 that we started to see much more enthusiasm for the Lupine franchise, likely due to younger audiences becoming familiar with an older series than ” Gundam”, “Star Wars”, or most parents of anime fans.
The central focus of this season is a battle of wits between Lupine and Sherlock Holmes. The battle comes as Lupine becomes embroiled in a heist that has something to do with the mysterious organization known as the Raven, a group of politicians and industry giants who have been pulling the strings of the British government since the end. of World War II.
While the central story is full of action, twists, and great characterization; it’s the unique episodes that really shine. One particularly memorable episode has a wealthy man with a recreation of the American Transcontinental Railroad in his backyard. The model train line, complete with tiny American landmarks, becomes the setting for an action scene straight out of an episode of “The Avengers” (not the superheroes, John Steed and Emma Peel from the O.G.).
And that’s what Lupin is and why the series has such an enduring legacy. The characters are a unique hodgepodge of weirdos, and they allow the writers to do anything from serious character study to a silly, nonsensical heist. Much like “The Avengers” or James Bond, Lupine can adapt to any genre or tone and stay fresh and fun because of it. Part 6 further confirms that as long as the anime exists, Lupine will endure and outlive most of his contemporaries.
Available on HIDIVE
Ranking of kings
Rarely can I say that an anime is both easily accessible to everyone, inclusive, and thoughtful in the way it presents its content; while managing a balance between serious, deadly character drama and whimsical fantasy elements. “Ranking of Kings” centers on a young prince who is deaf and unable to speak, so he relies on lip reading and sign language to communicate. Due to his disability, the people of the kingdom and those around him within the castle walls underestimate and harass him. Although Prince Bojji is the dying king’s choice to succeed him, political machinations lead to Bojji’s mean little brother becoming a prince. Prince Bojji must now fight for his life in a twisty adventure perfect for any ‘Game of Thrones’ fan.
Due to the childish nature of the show, I almost jumped on it, but I’m so glad I didn’t let appearances fool me. This is an engrossing, well-written, beautifully directed, and emotionally resonant coming-of-age story, offering characters one of a kind in contemporary anime. Although the fantasy world it offers isn’t as well realized as a Westeros or Middle-earth, it uses those elements of traditional fantasy to create a cast and world that captures the spirit of the fairy tales of the youth.
Each character is multi-faceted, even the apparent villains come with stories that humanize them. In one episode, “Ranking of Kings” offers more character growth and investment than entire seasons of other shows; a testament to his amazing writing.
“Ranking of Kings” has established itself as one of the best anime in recent memory and I can’t wait to see where Prince Bojji’s story takes it.
Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation
Jujutsu Kaisen 0
Jujutsu Kaisen took the anime world by storm and was one of the best shows I watched last year. And while fans patiently wait for the second season, they can check out the theatrical release of this prequel film, which hits select theaters on March 18. If you’re curious about the backstory of some of your favorite mentor characters in the main series, this is the movie for you.
Limited theatrical release: March 18
Released on February 5, “Shenmue” rounds out the season with an adaptation of the cult classic martial arts game. Ryo Hazuki searches for his father’s killer from Japan to Hong Kong and confronts underground organizations in his quest for justice. Without the abundance of filler and mechanics that made the game series inaccessible to so many gamers, the anime should let the story and action shine through.
Available on Crunchyroll and streaming on Adult Swim