Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
- Trailer: PV Trailer
- What it’s about: The Sakurasou dorm has a reputation at Suimei University – it’s where the administration houses its most troubled, desperate, or just plain weird students to keep them out of the way. Sorata has been living in the house for the better part of a year, after refusing to abandon an adopted cat. Now word has come in that a new resident is arriving; a transfer student from England named Mashiro. While extremely artistically talented, it turns out that she’s completely unable to look after herself, and Sorata is left in charge of handling her everyday life.
- Why you should watch it: Sakurasou has a lot going for it. It’s a slice of life romcom, but those words don’t really do it justice. The heart of the series is in how it plays every member of the core cast off against one another. There’s enough space in the 24-episode run to explore each of the relationships in depth, to build the characters up from their initial impressions into fully-fledged personalities. You really get a sense that these people are friends, rather than actors. And if that’s not enough, the plot of the show is deeper than it appears at first glance, and it addresses its central themes with adroitness. The artwork is warm and bright, and I was quite impressed with the detail that the animators put into the manga, paintings and other artwork within the show itself.
- Caveats: The romance aspect of the show is a little weaker than the rest, playing off of the typical anime-protagonist indecisiveness and denseness to delay resolution. The show has a moderate amount of fanservice, mostly frontloaded into the first few episodes. Finally, avoid the Coalgirls-subtitled version. The changes they make to the script aren’t really an improvement. Go with the Crunchyroll or Rori subs.
- Themes: Talent and hard work, in combination and competition. The show deviates slightly from the standard “you can do anything if you try hard enough” anime storytelling approach. It’s remarkably realistic in showing interactions between those with natural talent and those without. At the same time, it’s careful to show that it’s not the be-all and end-all when it comes to living happily.
- Similar works: Toradora!
Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken (I Don’t Understand What My Husband is Saying)
- Trailer: PV Trailer
- What it’s about: Hajime and Kaoru are a happily married couple with wildly divergent personalities and interests. But what they both agree on is that they’re nonetheless perfectly suited to one another. The show follows their daily lives as they interact with each other, their family and friends, and face various milestones together as husband and wife.
- Why you should watch it: Most comedy short series stick to a single gag and pad the episodes out around it. Danna ga, on the other hand, integrates the slice of life elements really quite well, while still eliciting a few big laughs in every three minute episode. See if you can pick up on the pop-culture and otaku-culture references in every episode. The story actually progresses a bit and you do come to like the characters for themselves rather than as tropes. It’s also just plain nice to see a pair of happily married adults as the focus of an anime for a change. With little time commitment required and a second season already announced for early Spring, it’s a good time to pick the show up.
- Caveats: None really, beyond the basic ones accompanying any comedy short series. The one episode that switches to a different art style to cover Kaoru’s backstory saw a little grumbling, but you’d have to be a real curmudgeon to look down on a little experimentation in a three-minute piece.
- Themes: Relationships are best when both partners love and celebrate differences, rather than similarities.
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
- Trailer:Note that the promotional materials for this show were created to be deliberately misleading, painting it as a simple Slice of Life show. Nonetheless, here’s the official preview trailer
- What it’s about: Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. That is, she’s a proud member of her middle-school Hero Club, and she spends her days helping others with tasks great and small. As it turns out, however, the club is a front. It’s an excuse to gather together girls with the potential to use Holy Magic in defense of the world against the alien Vertex threat. This looks like a dream come true for the valiant Yuuki, but nobody seems to be able to give a straight answer about the details of the threat they face.
- Why you should watch it: The show is quite explicitly modeled after the hugely successful and influential Mahou Shoujo “deconstruction” Madoka Magica – just look at the character designs and colour schemes and you’ll get a good idea of the roles each of the girls are going to play in the show. That said, the series takes its own path, spending a great deal more time developing its characters and showing them living their lives, and all the while the audience waits for the other shoe to drop. The audience gets a sense that something is off, something is wrong, but without anything specific to put a finger on. This tension is maintained marvelously. The show slowly builds upon itself, reaching a crescendo, allowing for all of the built up emotion and uneasy feeling to spill over. The result is a consistent ride of trepidation that never lets up.Backing this up is some seriously gorgeous artwork for the “battleground” world and an energetic soundtrack that keeps up handily with the action set pieces.
- Caveats: First off, this is unapologetically a Mahou Shoujo series, complete with fan-servicey transformation scenes and butt-kicking middle school girls. What “twists” there are are also spread across the whole series, so you’re going to be spending a great deal of time watching general Slice of Life scenes with the characters interacting in a relatively normal middle school environment.
- Themes: Sacrifice and altruism, friendship and family. Power comes with a price, but that price is worth paying to protect those you care about. As the show explicitly states, anything is possible if you try hard enough with your friends.
- Similar works: Madoka Magica, Selector Infected WIXOSS.