The new year is upon us and with that comes a steaming hot plate of new anime. For those unaware, we’ve begun the anime winter season which spans from January through the end of March so by the time this list has been posted, the first episodes of each series will be available for your, and my, viewing pleasure. While the winter season is usually one of the slower times of the year, there's a couple series that I'm really excited for and even one that brings a smile to my face. Last winter was one of my more enjoyable seasons hitting me a sleeper hit like KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!. Now, without further ado, let’s look at few noteworthy series of Winter 2017.
'KonoSuba' Season 2
That’s right, one year later and we’re back with another season. Last winter, KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! made a splash in the anime community. A series that I paid no attention to due to its overdone fantasy plot and the questionable studio name behind it ended up in the running for my top anime of 2016 list. KonoSuba follows the story of high school NEET Kazuma Satou after dying a rather “unfortunate” and unexpected death. With his time on Earth spent, two options are laid out before him by the goddess Aqua: move onto heaven or continue life in a fantasy world plagued by a demon king. The choice was simple. Now with a slapped together party of adventurers, Kazuma continues life as he battles monsters and mediocrity in this wonderful fantasy world.
KonoSuba was arguably one of the more charming anime of last year and definitely one of the funniest. While it definitely has some questionable artistic direction from Studio Deen, KonoSuba's visual inconsistencies, at times, actually add to the charming nature of the anime. With the derpy "thump's up" faces in contrast with the overly beautiful "explosions" by Megumin, Studio Deen has spun it's previous questionable abilities into one of my personal favorites of the year and I expect season 2 to continue that trend. While still shorter than I would have liked, KonoSuba season 2 will be providing us with another 10-episode run this season. So, for anyone who didn't previously watch season 1, I highly recommend you give it a chance and jump into this crazy adventure.
(North America) Season 1 is currently available on Crunchyroll with full streaming to premium members. Crunchyroll will also be simulcasting KonoSuba season 2 this winter season. Give the series a try, I highly recommend it.
'Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Impure King Arc'
On the other end of the sequel spectrum is Blue Exorcist. Six years later, we’re receiving the second season of Blue Exorcist that, frankly, we never expected. The Blue Exorcist series, or Ao no Exorcist in Japanese, revolves around Rin Okumura, a teenager who discovers he is the son and heir to Satan. Raised by Father Shiro Fujimoto, an exorcist of the True Cross Order, Rin decides to forsake his fate and train to be an exorcist to take down Satan alongside his twin brother, Yukio. The original anime aired back in 2011 where it received a 25-episode run. Of those 25 episodes, only 17 episodes followed the source material of the series, with the final 8 spinning out of control with an anime-original ending.
Normally, when anime results to deviating from the source material, especially such big deviations that created their own “ending” for the series, it highly unlikely to expect any sort of continuation. In response, the new season of Blue Exorcist is forced to throw out the previous 8 episodes and attempt to rekindle the story in an earlier moment, where the canon left off. I'm curious if this is going to reignite a future for this anime after it brings the manga back into the eyes of the general consumer. Regardless, it's an interesting and welcomed move to return six years later. Blue Exorcist is by no means an amazing or even great series but it's a fun shounen ride that I'm, personally, happy to watch more of.
(North America) Season 1 is currently available on Crunchyroll with full streaming to premium members. Crunchyroll will also be simulcasting Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Impure King Arc this winter season. If you’re interested in shounen anime then Blue Exorcist may be of interest to you.
'Scum's Wish (Kuzu no Honkai)'
Scum’s Wish is the only entry on this list that isn’t a known quantity to me and I'm extremely excited. It's a series that should hopefully fill a specific gap in my anime viewing: a mature take on romance. Despite my enjoyment of romcom anime, the overused tropes of the main characters unable to express the slightest feeling for each other, and if they try they are met with an outside force delaying their progress, gets tiresome. More serious series like White Album 2 are found few and far between as the medium, aimed at the teenage demographic, prefers to keep comedic relief high and leave love as a happy thought in the distance, understandably. From time to time, I truly want to watch something more meaningful, something that will tear my heart out along with the characters. Scum's Wish may be just that and far more. It's not just breaking the mold, it's obliterating it.
Scum's Wish is the story of teenagers Mugi Awaya and Hanabi Yasuraoka. Through of eyes of those around them, they are a normal couple but, to themselves, they know they're each other's replacements for the ones they truly love. In this tale of romance, Hanabi is in love with Narumi, a new teacher at her school and long-time family friend, and Mugi is in love with Akane, his old tutor. The two found each other while watching their crushes from afar, coming together on a common thread: Narumi and Akane seem to have eyes for each other. Scum's Wish is about the tipping point of one's emotions. In Mugi, Hanabi finds someone she can confide in and vice versa. It's a relationship built on loneliness that ignites a level intimacy needed only to curve the desires of their unrequited love. It's a take on the romance drama rarely seen in anime and it's taken to a point that hurts. There very well may be no redeeming qualities, no light at the end of the tunnel, for this series and I'm, personally, all in for this interesting roller coaster. I can't wait to see where the series takes me. It's been announced that the manga, source material for the anime, will reach it's conclusion this March, alongside the anime. It's unconfirmed, at the moment, if the anime will be adapting the manga in it's entirety this season or not but as Scum's Wish isn't a long manga, it's likely. So, if you want to roll around in the mud and feel bad about it afterwards, give Scum's Wish a chance.
(North America) Amazon will be simulcasting Scum's Wish for Amazon Prime members via a new service called Anime Strike, an additional $4.99 monthly subscription. Thanks Amazon.
'Little Witch Academia (2017)'
One of the most anticipated anime of Winter 2017 and my seemingly biggest disappointment (for reasons unrelated to the content itself) is Little Witch Academia. Made by Studio Trigger, Little Witch Academia (2017) is a reboot of the 2013 short film of the same name. LWA originated from the Young Animator Training Project Anime Mirai 2013 as a way to train new animators. Among the same group was the short known Death Billards that would eventually launched into a full 12 episode anime 2015, setting a precedent, in my eyes, as to the potential these short films could grow into. Little Witch Academia would later, in 2017, receive the same treatment after partially funding a second film in 2015 and showing that it was a property that had enough traction to become something bigger. Unfortunately for us, we won't (legally) be seeing this series any time soon.
Taking place in a world of magic, regular girl Atsuko Kagari dreams of becoming a witch after being memorized by the famous idol, Shiny Chariot. With her unbreakable resolve, she enrolls into Magical Academy where she quickly learns that her role model is frowned upon by other witches, being seen as nothing more than a circus performer. Akko, ignoring their words, continues forwards in the hopes of becoming extraordinary and aiming for the goal of surpassing Shiny Chariot, despite lacking in any magical talent, with her friends Sucy and Lotte. Little Witch Academia is a high energy, colorful series that oozes the word "magical". The high production value and artistic style of Studio Trigger takes your eyes on a fun, visual roller-coaster ride. If the series can retain what made the short films so special while fleshing out the story and world then it will be easily one of the best series this season. Then again, we won't be watching it.
Little Witch Academia (2017) has been acquired for streaming by Netflix. Due to their desire to take a small slice of the anime pie and their sequential unwillingness to stream content in anything besides large chunks, we won't be able to watch the anime for quite some time. Unlike Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, or even Amazon, Netflix doesn't change their streaming model by simulcast anime. I've been burned waiting for Seven Deadly Sins and The Adventures of Sinbad because Netflix will only every drop a series in bulk episodes. Now this harms the more dedicated hardcore consumer, like myself, but also opens the anime floodgates to the casual consumer. Netflix has a huge subscriber base of people who could stumble onto the series, expanding the possibilities of anime. But, only potentially. It's doubtful Netflix will put any sort of mainstream advertising out for the series so what's the point? The people who care and want to watch it are burned and there probably won't be any grand benefit from our pain. I have a big problem with Netflix butting into the anime industry and it's only growing worse. For now all we can do is hope that Netflix takes their position in the anime industry more seriously by taking a look at their competitors. It's unfortunate, but because Little Witch Academia cannot be streamed by legal means I will not be discussing impressions as we move forward through this season. Sorry Akko.
(North America) Netflix has acquired the streaming rights to this anime and will likely provided the full series after its initial run in Japan is complete. As currently rumored, Little Witch Academia may be a 25-episode split-cour series so how Netflix will factor in streaming in unknown. Worst case: we’ll be waiting a long time for legal streaming.
Thanks for reading my Most Anticipated Anime of Winter 2017. My work can be found at TheDigiQuest.com, where this post originated from. For more on anime goodness, keep checking back with us and maybe even give our podcast, The DigiCast, a try as I go over some of the more important of anime of 2016 for this week's episode.
Images taken from screenshots of the episodes/trailers of each anime.