Our Most Anticipated Anime of Fall 2020
Most Anticipated: Moriarty the Patriot
I haven't been in this position for a few seasons – there are so many shows I'm looking forward to that I had a hard time picking the one I'm most excited for. Of course, I also made it harder on myself by deliberately deciding not to name Haikyu!!, because come on, how could anyone who watched the previous season NOT be eagerly anticipating its return? But even with that caveat, Moriarty the Patriot is rivaling it for the top of my list. Based on the manga of the same name (whose first volume I really enjoyed), the story is excellently researched, not just in terms of its period setting, but also in its Sherlockian lore. Drawing from a variety of sources about the character and his author, the plot breathes life into James Moriarty, a character Arthur Conan Doyle only created in an attempt to be able to stop writing about Sherlock Holmes, picking up on inconsistencies in the original canon as well as fan theories and academic ephemera. But even from a non-nerd perspective, the story takes some interesting turns in terms of where James Moriarty came from in the first place and how he rose to become the ultimate rival for Sherlock Holmes, presenting him as someone with his own moral code built from his experiences as a child subjected to the cruelties of humans. This leads him to become what he calls a “crime consultant” – someone you turn to when you need a crime committed, rather than solved, because regular justice has let you down. It stands to present Moriarty not just as Holmes' foe, but also his perfect foil, and watching that unfold from the perspective of someone who will not be brought low again should be fascinating. The trailer shows an intriguing mixture of lights and darks in its scenery – part Gothic novel, part excerpt from London Living and the London Poor – and I'm looking forward to seeing it play out on-screen almost as much as I'm anticipating further manga volumes.
Runner-up: Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle
Closely following this is Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, which goes on record as the funniest series that I didn't think could hold out for as many volumes as it has. The story turns damsel-in-distress narratives on their collective head, putting the Demon King and his people at the mercy of Princess Syalis, the wispy young thing they kidnapped. Much to their bafflement (and later horror and eventually acceptance), Alis really doesn't mind being a hostage because it means she doesn't have to bother with things like “duties” which prevent her from napping. The only problem? The bed is too uncomfortable in her cell! (Who'd have thought?) So Alis starts breaking out of her cell and terrorizing the denizens of the castle in pursuit of a better night's sleep, which honestly I can kind of relate to. She murders ghost shrouds, she de-furs teddy demons, and she gives Demon King and Demon Cleric all sorts of wrong ideas about her feelings for them (mostly poor Demon Cleric). It has a formula, but it's one that really works and is consistently funny, and the trailers make it look like this will be a faithful adaptation of Scissors Demon Alis Alis' reign of humor on the poor, poor demons. With a vocal cast it could be even funnier than the books, and who couldn't use a good laugh these days?
After this point it becomes a multi-way tie between three series – the latest season of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Higurashi: When They Cry, and Wandering Witch. Unsurprisingly, all these are adaptations of works I've enjoyed reading, and the DanMachi arc we're headed into, the Xenos arc, is one of the most interesting in terms of world building as it upends much of what was assumed known about the dungeon and the monsters. If it isn't rushed through, it could be really good. Wandering Witch, meanwhile, looks absolutely gorgeous from the trailer, and its mix of Kino's Journey and The Little Prince may make for a lovely episodic viewing experience. I'm a bit leery about Higurashi because I love the original (and I'm not thrilled with the spoiler in the second PV), but, well, I really enjoy the story, so I'm still excited.
And Haikyu!!, of course. But you knew that.
Most Anticipated: Taiso Samurai
When Yuri!!! on Ice was first announced, I got to thinking about what kind of anime I'd like to see made. One of my ideas was a show about men's gymnastics, preferably by the known upper-body-lover Hiroko Utsumi. Well, a little over four years later (oh god what is time, it feels like that was last month but also an entire eternity ago), Taiso Samurai is coming out and, while it may not be directed by Utsumi, it's chock full of stuff that feels specifically tailored to me.
You see, I love Tiger and Bunny. No, not just Tiger and Bunny; I love Kotetsu Kaburagi, in all his depressed dad/widower-who-never-got-over-his-dead-wife glory. So, when I read the description of Taiso Samurai's main character – a widowed single father struggling with the effects of aging – I realized he could easily be my next big anime crush. Sure, that may be silly and frivolous and maybe some of you will never take my opinions seriously again now that I've admitted it, but I'm just living my truth here. And to be honest, I am excited for it for plenty of the “right” reasons, such as a great cast and the potential for a well-written, compelling character-driven story. It's just that sometimes, you want all that with a side of sad muscle dads, you know?
Runner Up: Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle
Have you ever dealt with insomnia? Not like a night or two where you have a hard time falling asleep because you drank coffee too late or it's too hot in your bedroom, but having multiple weeks-long streaks where you can only snatch a couple hours a night. It sucks, and The Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle sounds like it may truly understand my pain. Princess Syalis having to go through an absurd Rube-Goldberg machine of trying to get comfy enough to fall asleep could be the hashtag-relatable content I need to carry me through the rest of 2020.
There's plenty else about Sleepy Princess to catch my eye as well. For one thing, the manga has generated some positive word-of-mouth for how it blends cuteness and horror for maximum comedic effect and cheerfully pokes fun at fairytale damsel-in-distress narratives. For another, it's written and directed by the comedy adaptation dream team of Yoshiko Nakamura and Mitsue Yamazaki, who took the perfectly good manga of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and, with split-second comic timing, turned it into one of the funniest anime of the 2010s. Hopefully they can work that same magic here as well.
Most Anticipated: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? III
This one is close, as two franchises that I am a big fan of have major new entries this season. Of the two, I am currently a more invested fan of DanMachi (I even play its mobile game heavily!), so that serves as the tiebreaker. There is also a lot to look forward to here, as this installment will deliver the meatiest arc in the main series to date: the Xenos arc, which covers original volumes 9-11 as a single continuous narrative and thus should take up the entirety of the season. Its game-changing potential should be evident from early in the first episode, as the main focus of the series – the monster girl Weine – will force a re-examination of all of the adventuring logic that the setting is based upon. The arc will also touch on deeper levels of intrigue within Orario than have yet been seen in anime form. That it will be one of the earliest titles to debut for the season is an added blessing.
Runner Up: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
This was a close second, but it is also the only other title that was even a slight contender. While I wouldn't rank InuYasha among my all-time favorite franchises, I have always liked it and often felt that its earlier series were a notch or two in quality above other series of their type. Hence my enthusiasm for its next-generation sequel is a given, especially considering that I am also a fan of multi-generational stories in general. I eagerly look forward to seeing how this series plays out and what connections it makes to the original series. Can it capture the original magic after the franchise has been off the air for several years? Other series that I am much more mildly anticipating include the Higurashi: When They Cry reboot and, based solely on the intriguing titles, I'm Standing on 1,000,000 Lives. and Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. I am also fully expecting others to at least catch my attention, since a few always do.
Most Anticipated: Jujutsu Kaisen
This may be a foolish pick given how badly I was burned the most recent anime that MAPPA produced with Sunghoo Park at the helm, but for all of The God of High School's many flaws, it was still able to shine when Park and his crew were allowed to do what they do best and cut loose with some kickass action. I have no idea what the hell Jujutsu Kaisen is about other than what I've been able to glean from the PVs and official story blurbs from Shonen Jump – apparently our guy Yuji joins an Occult Research Club, eats a rotting demonic finger, and gets involved in some manner of battle manga shenanigans?
It could be monumentally goofy and nonsensical for all I know, but Jujutsu Kaisen still looks like it could be a blast to watch, and it has at least two aces up its sleeve that The God of High School did not: For one, the weird occult angle seems infinitely more interesting than GoH's lame riff on magical martial arts tournament tropes, but best of all, we've got Hiroshi Seko handling the series composition. This is the guy responsible for adapting no fewer than three modern anime classics — Attack on Titan, Mob Psycho 100, and Vinland Saga — and his work on original series like Deca-Dence and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is nothing to sneeze at, either. If anyone can rein in Sunghoo Park's visual flair with a cohesive and satisfying story, it's Seko, and I have to believe that Jujutsu Kaisen will at least live up to its creators' astounding pedigrees by entertaining the hell out of me this fall.
Runner Up: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
This season looks like it'll end up being the Winter of Long-Awaited Sequels for me, though honestly, my experience with the original InuYasha is not as mired in nostalgia as you might think. I only ever caught a few of episodes of the first season in passing on Cartoon Network as a kid, and it was only thanks to my wife's encouraging me to pick up the series during the COVID-19 quarantine that I really started digging into the classic adventures of Kagome and Co. My decades-late take is that, yeah, InuYasha is pretty darned good! There's just something about Rumiko Takahashi's old-school sensibilities that appeals to me much more now than it did back when I was in middle school, and even though she doesn't seem to be especially involved in the nitty-gritty of Yashahime's production, I'm also a sucker for “The Next Generation” types of stories. Even more than figuring out the mysterious connections that the offspring of the original Team Half-Demon share, I'm eager to see what grown-up Sota is like as an awkward dad, and how the conventions of the franchise's world adapt to the 2010s. With the year winding to a close, I'm all about media that is medicine for the heart and soul, and Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon looks like it will be just what the doctor ordered.
Most Anticipated: Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina
Up front, I don't actually know anything about Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina. I've not read the novels nor the manga adaptation, and I'm entirely prepared for this pick to blow up in my face if it turns out this is some weird slavery apologia in disguise. But sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants, and what my heart always wants is a good Witch anime. And the sheer size and floppiness of this titular Witch's hat tells me that somebody involved in this show's existence knows what they're doing. Look at that thing; it seems to get bigger and floppier with every cut. That's dedication right there. More seriously, the aesthetic of magic and witchcraft is something I've just always had an affinity for, and the rare sight of a non-isekai fantasy story is enough to get my attention on its own. That it's apparently a semi-episodic travelogue with our heroine encountering new people and places across the magical world just sells me even harder. So until somebody's brave enough to greenlight a Witch Hat Atelier anime, I'll be hitching my broom to Elaina.
Other than my witchy bias, there are quite a few promising series coming this fall, thanks in part to a heavily-delayed summer lineup. First on that list is Taiso Samurai, a gymnastics series by the team behind sleeper hit Zombie Land Saga. I'm a fan of well-done sports narratives, and this team has proven they're adept at both comedy and drama to such a degree I feel safe following them anywhere. There's also the much awaited return of Haikyu!! which promises to deliver some more great sports action, and having read the manga I'm excited to see possibly the best match in the whole series animated. On the topic of manga, I'm also waiting with bated breath for Sunghoo Park's adaptation of Jujutsu Kaisen, especially after seeing what this team did with God of High School's action. That all that talent will be attached to a story I know isn't tedious nonsense (JJK is still nonsense, but the good, Jojo's kind of nonsense) just makes me more excited.
And last but not least there's Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, which Sunrise deigned to spring on us mere weeks before the season starts. While it's under a different team than either of the previous Love Live! anime, the franchise has been unerringly funny and endearing, even with me being pretty averse to idol music and culture on the whole. Even with a new creative team, I don't see any reason that won't continue with this third series, and if nothing else I'm excited to see how far they've come with the CG musical numbers since Sunshine.
Most Anticipated: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
There are a number of potentially great offerings this upcoming season, and Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon isn't even the only one to offer a nostalgic factor. (I'm also excited about Higurashi: When They Cry.) However, Yashahime potentially stands apart from the pack because it's an original sequel to a long-running franchise. Short of the fact that this is a “next generation” tale, I have no idea where the story will go. Nonetheless, I'm excited about a chance to jump back into Sengoku-era Japan in the world of InuYasha, where yokai run rife. There's also a connection to the modern world that looks to get at least some focus in this sequel, judging by the trailer. While it was rarely as funny as any other works based on Rumiko Takahashi's manga, InuYasha was an action-packed story with endearing characters, and I have hope the sequel will be much the same.
Runner-up: Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina
I'd never heard of Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina before watching the trailer (and I was originally more excited for Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle instead after reading a volume of the amusing manga), but the trailer drew me in with its lush, fantasy world visuals. The stunning, brightly colored art is a backdrop for what looks to be a cozy, slice-of-life story about a witch who isn't out to save the world, who just wishes to explore other villages and meet new people. I'm hoping for an iyashikei anime that dazzles with its aesthetic and offers up a variety of standalone stories with a magical touch. There seems to be a rich set of supporting characters, and though the trailer hints at a few tearjerker moments, I'm tuning in to feel all the warm cozies of disappearing into a happily-ever-after, fairytale-like world.
Most Anticipated: Haikyu!! To The Top Season 2
Alright, a new season of anime! Time to dive in and see what catches my eye– woah jeez that's a lot of big shows this fall. I knew a lot of major premieres and sequels were coming up, but I don't think I realized how many of them were happening all at once here.
The thing I'm looking forward to most might be boring and predictable, but it's Haikyu!! again. What do you want from me, it's Haikyu!!, the sports anime that's so good it's made it hard for me to enjoy other, lesser sports anime. At this point you've gotta assume the time association is a big factor; I've spent all these years watching this very good group of volley-boys fight their way to the National tournament they're currently in the middle of. With stakes like that to be invested in, how could some other show about a gaggle of kids struggling to barely assemble their school's, I don't know, croquet team hope to engage on the same level? The Crows of Karasuno are basically my team at this point, and another season to follow them is an event the same as one for any other sport and club I want to cheer on. The only difference, I guess, is that a new NFL season doesn't have a manga I could have read to spoil myself on years earlier.
So you know I'm also excited for something as ambitious as the Higurashi remake, and looking forward to the anime version of Jujutsu Kaisen based mostly on the pedigree of MAPPA plus that one really, really cool-looking trailer they showed off a little bit ago. But I also find myself necessarily drawn to more clearly commercial affairs. The Assault Lily Bouquet line of action dolls is one I've always admired from afar (I have neither the money nor the space to let myself fall into collecting them) so when you put studio SHAFT plus some former Kyoto Animation staff on that, I'll at least check out the first episode. I'm also looking forward to an anime adaptation helping me finally figure out what a Hypnosis Mic is. Along similar lines of music-project cross-promotion, I feel obligated to give D4DJ First Mix a look simply for being barely adjacent to my beloved BanG Dream!.
Most Anticipated: Moriarty the Patriot
What can I say, in spite of the seemingly ceaseless cultural saturation, I'm still fond of the Sherlock Holmes mythos. Honestly, it's less of a mythos now and more of a familiar framework on which people can build their own stories, so I'm curious to see what this iteration is going to do with our one-and-only Napoleon of Crime. I can imagine a million ways in which this could turn into something trite, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the prospect of making Moriarty a kind of anti-hero for the common people. I have no qualms with crime if it's being executed in opposition to oppressive societal stratification, and/or if it's being done by a hot dude (though I will confess a preference for the silver fox Moriarty in FGO over the young whippersnapper in this adaptation). My enthusiasm is also buoyed by the presence of director Kazuya Nomura. He has a very good CV, including recent excellent shows like Run with the Wind and Joker Game, with the latter in particular being a strong sign that he's an appropriate fit for this material. Finally, I'm praying this is good, because the alternative is that I get my Holmes-adjacent content exclusively from VTubers this season, and nobody wants to see that happen.
Runner-up: Taiso Samurai
Combine some strong Studio MAPPA pedigree with the eye-catching flair of men's gymnastics, and we very well might have the formula for one of autumn's standout sleeper hits. The trailer is snazzy enough, but as an original work, a lot is going to ride on the yet-unknown quality of its story and characters. Writer Shigeru Murakoshi has done a good job composing scripts for some of MAPPA's prior adaptations, and he's also credited with series composition and the lion's share of the scripts on my beloved Zombie Land Saga, so that's promising. And I really don't need anything flashy—a traditional sports narrative with strong personalities can go a long way. I'm more wary about the show being able to maintain consistent good gymnastics animations throughout its run, because that's a lot of complicated movement. I'm assuaged, however, by the fact that the PV uses some CG animation. MAPPA's been getting better at integrating CG into its shows, and I think (and hope) that's a more realistic way of achieving consistent quality without completely exhausting its staff. At worst, I'll bet that we get a stunning premiere out of it, and that's more than you can say about a lot of anime. If it can hone its form and stick the landing on top of that, then it should be a great show to ride out the rest of this year.
Runner-up x2: Iwa-Kakeru! -Sport Climbing Girls-
It's girls! Doing a sport! With an exclamation point in the title! What will they think of next? To be perfectly honest, I don't have a ton of confidence that this show will be better than it is horny, but it would be pretty sweet if that turns out to be the case. While I've only gone wall climbing a handful of times, I think it's an athletic subject with a lot of narrative potential. It combines strength with tactical thinking in a unique way, and as a competitive sport, it's niche enough to benefit from its inherent novelty to the general population. I'm also amenable to just about any anime that isn't afraid to draw some visible musculature on its main female characters. I just hope it's cool (hi Dorohedoro) and not gross (hi Fire Force) about it.
Most Anticipated: Akudama Drive
As an enormous Danganronpa fan, I have spent an inordinate amount of time chasing any IP that seems like it could bring back the thrilling experience of Spike Chunsoft's specific brand of murder and mayhem. Studio Pierrot's Akudama Drive might finally be my white whale (or white Monokuma, if you will). Kazutaka Kodaka, the original creator of Danganronpa, is credited with the script. And just one look at the character designs confirmed that they're the work of Danganronpa artist Rui Komatsuzaki. That explains why both the characters' appearances and over-the-top descriptions (one lists his hobby as “murder”) feel like they came right out of the trigger-happy franchise. The second official trailer is particularly promising, featuring a high-stakes heist storyline with a gorgeous cyberpunk cityscape as the backdrop. I'm especially excited for Megumi Ogata (who previously voiced Makoto Naegi and Nagito Komaeda) as Doctor, a dangerous-looking scientist focused more on causing pain than healing it. The intiial visuals certainly make a splash, and I'm hoping the anime can live up to this first impression.
Runner-up: Moriarty the Patriot
Eat the rich! Hot on the heels of its namesake manga, this Sherlock Holmes-inspired anime flips the script and puts the great detective's rival in the protagonist role. This heavily editorialized story transforms the ghoulish, middle-aged Professor Moriarty into a blonde pretty boy while keeping his ruthless demeanor intact. It's these good looks that soften his bloodthirsty image even when his actions don't. Chapter after chapter features Moriarty neatly disposing of wealthy wrongdoers in creative and gruesome ways—yet somehow he remains the hero of this story. With a tense orchestral score and a Victorian sepia color palette interrupted only by Moriarty's crimson eyes, this Production I.G anime feels primed to attract the Black Butler set and perhaps radicalize them along the way. As Moriarty topples the oppressive nobles and bring justice to the poor, I can't think of a more fitting anime to watch at this moment in time.