Hey all, and welcome back to Why It Works! The winter season’s in full swing at this point, with a wide variety of shows ready for your perusal. Last season, around this time I put out a “rough gems” post – a highlighting of shows that might have flown under the radar, but were still worth a look. Well, this season, it seems more likely that basically everything will fly under the radar. There aren’t too many clear megahits this time, so today I’ll simply offer some general highlights and hope you find something to enjoy.
First off, if this season has any obvious stars, they’d be the sequels. Konosuba was one of the top comedies of last year, and its sequel seems just as strong from the start. Konosuba is another one of those “trapped in a game world” shows, but it’s essentially that crossed with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. All of its characters are jerks or idiots, they are very bad at questing, they always barely survive somehow. If you want to see an oblivious goddess get eaten by a giant frog or an “explosion mage” accidentally blow up a castle, Konosuba’s the pick.
The other major sequel is Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Descending Stories. The first season of Rakugo was easily one of the most impressive shows last year, combining great character writing, a tragic narrative, and stunning performance setpieces to bring rakugo theater to life. I had no knowledge of or interest in rakugo before the first season, but the show’s remarkable ability to convey the panic and power of the stage made me a believer. If you’re looking for a thoughtful character drama, Rakugo’s the easy standout.
But of course, this season also has new shows. First off, I’d highly recommend ACCA, even if that might make my future recommendations seem a little suspicious. Sure, this is a show about civil servants performing audits in an imaginary country, but it’s got style! Personality! ACCA actually seems pretty fascinating so far, mundane subject matter aside. It seems to be using its bureaucracy-focused premise to set up a story of massive government turmoil, while also carefully setting up a living world and a wide, dynamic set of characters. Plus it looks great. I’d give it a chance.
Coming up next, Interviews with Monster Girls seems to offer a unique take on the growing monster girl market. Instead of laugh-out-loud comedy or heavy fanservice, Interviews treats its characters as actual, well, people, with extraordinary qualities that result in surprisingly mundane problems. How does a succubus conduct relationships? How does a dullahan eat dinner? Combining charming characters and an almost slice-of-life tone, Interviews offers a uniquely thoughtful take on the genre.
But if you’re looking for a less thoughtful take, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is ready to please. Animated by the always-impressive Kyoto Animation, Dragon Maid is all wild physical comedy and deadpan gags. The first episode involves Miss Kobayashi trying to stop her titular dragon maid from chewing on the laundry, eating uninvited guests, and cleaning her apartment by torching everything in it. Directed by the talented Yasuhiro Takemoto (who also handled Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu and Amagi Brilliant Park), it’s got snappy comedic timing and plenty of gorgeous dragon animation. If you’re looking for classic comedy executed beautifully, Dragon Maid’s a strong choice.
If it feels like this list in leaning heavily into comedies, well, that’s the season we’ve got. I’m actually not a big fan of anime comedy in general, but for some reason, almost all the highlights this season emphasized the laughs. In fact, even the last shows on my list are comedies – Akiba’s Trip combines jokes and fanservice with some great animation highlights, and Gabriel DropOut features a lazy angel, barely-evil demon, and a bunch of other celestial flunkies.
But hey, I’m only one guy. Personally, I’d highly recommend checking out both Rakugo and ACCA, and then seeing which of this season’s many comedies works for your own sense of humor. And of course, there are plenty of other shows airing, all of which bring their own unique strengths to the table. I hope you’ve found something to enjoy here, and please let me know all your own favorites in the comments!
Nick Creamer has been writing about cartoons for too many years now, and is always ready to cry about Madoka. You can find more of his work at his blog Wrong Every Time, or follow him on Twitter.