A new season of anime is underway, and, as ever, there’s no shortage of blockbuster titles. Holdovers like the fantastic Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End as well as The Apothecary Diaries are entering into another cour (a group of 12 to 13 episodes), and continue to impress with their thoughtful, patiently unspooling stories and, in the case of the former, astounding animation production and score. While those are still worth your time, there are a lot of newcomers ready to take over your screens. Here, we highlight the cream of the Winter 2024 crop.
Available on Netflix
This long-awaited adaptation of Ryoko Kui’s acclaimed manga hasn’t disappointed. Delicious in Dungeon couples a survivalist’s cooking guide with sword-and-sorcery fantasy adventure, all with a winsome sense of specificity and depth. It starts when the knight Laios and his party run afoul of a dragon dwelling deep in a dungeon the size of a city. They promptly get wiped out — his sister gets eaten too. The survivors regroup on the surface, and Laios presents a new gameplan: get back in as quickly as possible and conserve supplies by scavenging for food inside the dungeon, cooking monsters as the basis for their meals.
Produced by Studio Trigger (Cyberpunk Edgerunners, Promare) and directed by Yoshihiro Miyajima (SSSS.Dynazenon, Little Witch Academia), the show is handsomely presented, not least of all in its depiction of its, let’s say, exotic meals. As much as the elven mage Marcille protests, the food looks incredible, giving real-world cuisine a fantasy twist: omelets made from basilisk eggs, tarts made from man-eating plants, tempura made from gigantic bats — nothing is off the table.
Its interest in the minutiae of this setting and quieter moments of respite makes it an unexpectedly strong companion piece to Frieren, though Delicious in Dungeon leans further into comedy. In the latter, the world-building is beginning to prove just as interesting and colorful on each floor of the impossibly vast subterranean expanse of the dungeon. Stone corridors filled with traps might lead to temples or even forests, and there’s no telling (if you haven’t read the manga) where it might lead next.
Available on Crunchyroll
After 2018’s Banana Fish and 2021’s electric sports anime Sk8 The Infinity, Hiroko Utsumi is back with another delightful, chaotic original series, BUCCHIGIRI?! (the punctuation is part of the title). This new show is a step further into the realm of fantasy for Utsumi; after Sk8 mostly just played fast and loose with the laws of physics, this is a story centered on mysticism (and some good old-fashioned teen angst). In that respect, there’s more than a little bit of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in BUCCHIGIRI?!’s blood, between its colorful, larger-than-life fraternities and magic punching powers.
Its would-be hero, Arajin Tomoshibi, doesn’t really have the fighting spirit — he just wants a girlfriend, but seems to stumble backwards into a fearsome reputation as a brawler as he punches out a heavy in a local gang, thanks to the unwanted assistance of a genie. Utsumi visually embraces this absurdity; Arajin’s school isn’t just rough, it’s as rundown as the high school from Akira.
Gangs of teenagers have complex organizational structure and political histories, even uniforms. The gang members themselves have the builds of pro-wrestlers and fight like they’re in the running for Dragon Ball Z’s various world tournaments. Beyond being funny, the fights are thrillingly choreographed, as the series moves from bouncier, softer animation, to drawings of men that look like they’re chiseled from marble. But more than any of that, BUCCHIGIRI?!? is just plain fun as it weaves utterly ridiculous characters into Arajin’s ill-fated quest for love and not war.
Available on Crunchyroll
The sugary sweet A Sign of Affection follows Yuki, a university student in her first year, who is more or less instantly smitten by the tall, pretty and contentious Itsuomi, a multilingual jet-setter also attending the same university. Yuki is deaf, and mostly talks to her friends through sign language or by text message — she can lip read too, which is how she first gets talking to Itsuomi.
Comparisons to A Silent Voice have been around since the manga that the show is based on first hit shelves. But, so far, A Sign of Affection isn’t about bullying or personal redemption; it might explore accessibility matters for deaf people, but it’s mostly about figuring out a crush on a guy as well as a vague, growing sense of wanderlust. Perhaps most interesting is the show’s focus on language itself, as it dissects different forms of communication from Yuki’s point of view: the nuances of different people’s sign language. For example, Yuki’s overprotective and patronizing childhood friend Ōshi signs in a more aggressive fashion but with an underlying uncertainty.
While I can’t speak to the visual presentation of these nuances as a non-speaker of sign language, it does seem that a lot of care has been put into actually showing a continuous back-and-forth in a way that I’ve not often seen in shows featuring deaf characters (Ranking of Kings, as good as it is, more or less abandons showing people signing to the protagonist, Bojji). In addition, it’s also just adorable as it renders the anxieties of new love. Yuki and Itsuomi’s crush on each other is never in doubt, but there’s excitement in seeing how they tentatively approach each other.
Available on Crunchyroll
Made in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the anime studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, Mob Psycho 100, My Hero Academia), Metallic Rouge is an original cyberpunk series directed by Motonobu Hori (Super Crooks). It’s perhaps more appealing in vibes and visual construction than it is narratively, an excuse to watch top-shelf talent from the studio, like the beloved Yutaka Nakamura, do their thing. With character designs from Toshihiro Kawamoto (a character designer on Cowboy Bebop, also a co-founder of Bones) and series composition from Yutaka Izubuchi (RahXephon) it feels just as reminiscent of the studio’s diverse history as much as it does Blade Runner.
Speaking of which, the premise: “Neans” (androids) live as an underclass to humans, mostly acting as laborers. An anti-government group known as ‘The Immortal Nine’ once attempted a revolt. And now the android agent Rouge Redstar, and her chatterbox partner Naomi Orthmann, hunt them on a sprawling cityscape on Mars (which creates a funny connection with Carole & Tuesday, which also situated its story of oppression and pop music on the red planet). The show gets its title from Rouge’s red battlesuit, and the resultant action sequences that kick off from her donning it, are impressive to say the least.
It’s not quite as simple as “Blade Runner with mechs,” as each new episode adds some wild lore drops — namely, how sometime before the show, there was a big space war against alien invaders called “Usurpers,: with the Nean androids serving on the frontlines instead of humans. At the moment, the show feels most at home coordinating Rouge's brawls. If the charming cast doesn't convince you, its slick presentation and dazzling effects work will.
Available on Crunchyroll
Masami Obari, a veteran of big robot shows, has an immediately identifiable style, one that has also lent itself to parody in recent years. A new show from Obari is exciting in itself, but Brave Bang Bravern! offers up joys beyond what’s expected of the director and designer. For its first subversion of expectations, the show is something of a hybrid — a collision of the rugged and militaristic design of ‘real robot’ mecha anime, with the bright colors and hot-blooded vividness of super robot anime.
It begins in a sort of flight academy, Top Gun-ish setting with hotshot pilots looking to make a name for themselves. And then an alien invasion happens, which itself gets crashed by the loud, boisterous, and very earnest sentient and autonomous mech named Bravern, who yells that very name at every opportunity, especially while someone else is talking. Better still, the show embraces homoerotic overtones in the relationship between Bravern and his pilot Isami; Bravern speaks in emphatic detail about his control shaft and wistfully remembers the feeling of Isami “being inside him.” Its often parodic tone feels in keeping with the delightful genre output of the production house Cygames, which has made shows like Akiba Maid War that planted maid cafes in yakuza drama.
Sadly, as far as animation is concerned, Obari isn’t getting to play with classic flavoring in a visual sense. 2D-drawn mecha shows are an increasing rarity, so it’s a shame that a director with as much cache in the genre as Obari is mostly working in 3D. But the show doesn’t look half bad, and has a lot of fun with the visual tropes of the genre, with touches like projections of Bravern’s logo actually appearing in-world. There’s humor and a simple joy in seeing a multi-story robot yell earnest words of encouragement at people. It has some stiff competition, but Bravern! is shaping up to be one of the wildest and funniest shows of the season.
Kambole Campbell is a freelance writer for Empire Magazine, Little White Lies, Sight and Sound, Hyperallergic, and CartoonBrew. And here!