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Here we are with Part 2 of the Winter 2023 Anime Season Impressions! If you have not seen Part 1, then please do so, since I covered the anime in that part that won’t show up here. This is definitely the area where the Winter 2023 strides with so many titles in this batch showing the best of the season. Now then, let’s get started.
Chillin’ in My 30s after Getting Fired from the Demon King Army (Crunchyroll)
You ever see a show just bail on its own title/premise so quickly it breaks the sound barrier? Yeah, this is one of those shows. This is based on the novels by Rokujuyon Okazawa. The anime adaptation is directed by Fumitoshi Oizaki, who directed last spring season’s Deaimon, written by Hitomi Amamiya, and produced by Encourage Films. If this anime is supposed to be about relaxing after getting fired from your overdemanding job, then why revert to a power fantasy anime? If the lead is having to do stuff that isn’t just relaxing, then that’s not really relaxing. Sure, they couldn’t make a show where all he does is relax and just help out around the village. They were probably worried that people would get bored, but due to how bad the entertainment industry is, novels, manga, and anime aren’t given time to be good, which sucks since it doesn’t all have to be bad. To be fair to this show though, it isn’t the worst of the season. It has some charm and humor about itself, and it at the very least seems to be pro-worker’s rights. It just suffers from a premise that isn’t all that different from other fantasy shows, a female lead that flip-flops between anime figurine fodder and a self-reliant and competent hero, and world-building that isn’t all that impressive. In a weaker season, this could have been a better title, but it sits in my bottom five for right now.
Farming Life in Another World (HiDive)
I know video games have made farming a genre, but for some reason, anime has continued to struggle with this concept. This is based on the novel series by Kinosuke Saito. The adaptation is directed by Ryoichi Kuraya, written by Touko Machida, and produced by Zero-G. At the very least, this is better than Chillin’ in My 30s because it actually commits to its plot. It’s literally about a guy who starts a farming life in a fantasy world. No demon lord or saving the world. Granted, it has the harem element pretty early on by the 3rd episode, but it is at least trying to have some comedic personality, be about growing crops, and what you need to do to get into farming life. It’s still fairly boring though, with everyone having basically the same personality. It still should be focusing more on the details of growing certain plants and such, but overall, it’s fine. Just a low-key anime that isn’t the worst of the season. There are way more frustrating anime out this season that are more of a chore to watch than this one.
The Fire Hunter (Crunchyroll)
It’s a shame this anime is the other poster child for the possibility that the anime industry really needs to take a moment and stop crafting so many hot messes. Consider this one of winter 2023’s biggest disappointments. Based on the novels by Rieko Hinata, this adaptation is written by Mamoru Oshii, directed by Junji Nishimura, and produced by Signal MD. Listen, I know Oshii loves to make really dense scripts, and the fact that much of this show is focused more on the lore, history, politics, and world-building than the actual characters, is a sign of such. It’s a fascinating world about how humans can become easily combustible in the presence of fire, and now have to use a special liquid farmed from beasts to do things like light special fires and fuel their vehicles. This show has a lot going for it, and once again, it feels like it is an adaptation issue that the storytelling is so dense and easy to glaze over, due to how much people go on and on talking about the history of the world. Like, some world-building and exposition is needed, but not the entire script. It left a sour taste after watching the first three episodes, and from what I have seen from the episodes past that point, nothing is changing, but if you like the show that’s cool. Not every show will be for everyone, but if a majority of people are already turning away from it due to its choppy and wonky animation and dense storytelling more interested in background stuff than actually being about the characters, then that’s a bad sign. It’s a shame, but if this show wasn’t so committed to Oshii and his team’s worst aspects as a creative, then maybe people wouldn’t be ready to leave the show. Also, just because the source material has an explanation, if they weren’t able to give a clear answer in the anime adaptation, then that’s on the anime, not the audience members being confused or their eyes glazing over due to their being too much dialogue on which to focus.
The Tale of Outcasts (Crunchyroll)
Yeah, it sucks this show is coming out a season before much better alternatives of this type of story will be coming out in the next anime season this year. This is based on the manga series by Makoto Hoshino. It’s directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto, written by Kenichi Yamashita, and produced by Ashi Productions. The biggest problem this show has is its tone. It wants to be both a dark fantasy with a romantic escape for its young lead who makes a deal with a demon to trade her eyesight for his protection, and then lightweight at times with super quirky moments that don’t really mesh well with the rest of the show’s much darker storyline. The animation is fine and some of the action scenes are decent, but the design of our main demon bugs me due to his demon form, and the first episode is a really rough sit. Maybe some fans will find time to watch it, but most will be waiting to see the second season of The Ancient Magus Bride or Sacrificial Princess and The King of Beasts in the spring season.
Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement (Crunchyroll)
When an anime has a very creative premise, how much are you willing to tolerate its rougher edges? This is based on the novels by Funa. The anime adaptation is directed by Hiroshi Tamada, written by Akihiko Inari, and produced by Felix Films. There is some admiration to be had with how this is an isekai where our lead can travel to and from the real world and the fantasy world that she ends up in. The premise itself has some fun and creative opportunities, and I have heard some positive reviews of the light novels on which this show is based. Still, either a wonky adaptation, or what feels like a slow burn to see where this story goes, frankly hurts its chances to watch past episode 3. The second episode is more real-world prep for the lead to head back into the fantasy world, and the fantasy world seems more like a pseudo road trip than her figuring out how to make enough money to save for her retirement. It does feel more interested in the world-building and character dynamics than the antics of raising enough money to retire easily, but the execution feels uneven. Doesn’t help that the animation isn’t great, and there are definitely some aspects of the show that will maybe rub people the wrong way. Still, it at least has something going for it than most isekai that come out every season. It might not reach the heights of the best ones from this season, but it still deserves some admiration for its twists on the formula.
Kaina of the Great Snow Sea (Crunchyroll)
It’s rather bizarre how this season has brought us two slow-burn original fantasy series, and that’s pretty neat. This is an original anime that is produced at Polygon Pictures. It’s directed by Hiroaki Ando and written by Sadayuki Murai and Tetsuya Yamada. While the CGI is the usual Polygon Pictures fare, they are improving upon their use of CGI animation, and boy howdy did they craft a really cool and unusual world. It’s definitely a pro-environmental world due to how everything is set up with this canopy made by giant tree-like entities. Luckily, the characters are likable and compelling enough so far by episode three to give you, the viewer, enough to want to see more past the third episode. Granted, it’s one of those shows that takes three episodes to get the ball rolling, but if you aren’t bothered by that, then you will want to find yourself traversing the snowy seas to see what mysteries are revealed about this world.
The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady (Crunchyroll)
Just when you think the isekai genre won’t have something to offer, a show like this comes out of nowhere and makes you remember why the genre can be good. This show is based on the novels by Piero Karasu. The anime adaptation is directed by Shingo Tamaki, written by Wataru Watari, and produced by Diomedea. First off, every other isekai? Take notes on this one. It actually shows you and tells you about its setting, world, and characters without having to resort to big and dense layers of exposition as we learn about the relationship between a princess who can’t use magic in a world where everyone uses magic, and a noble who’s upcoming marriage is broken due to political upheaval and brash decisions made by her ex-fiance. Sure, some parts may or could possibly lean onto more power fantasy aspects of isekais, but with the fact our lead was smart enough to craft something truly original and not just be someone set with a ton of magical powers and no stakes in any fights, it’s a really smart decision made within the story. The one lead makes her own combination of magic and technology to do things that others can do, due to the ability to cast magic. The show is also willing to let the characters be characters, and not just cheap promotional material for the merchandise. It’s also a gorgeous show, due to how much the team and production committee were obviously working on the same level as one another. With its visually splendid animation, complex characters, intriguing world, and killer music, this is easily in the running for one of the best anime of the season and an early contender so far for best isekai of the year. Well, it’s the best one next to another show you will see the impressions of soon.
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale (Crunchyroll)
CW: topics and themes of slavery
Consider this to be one of the more loaded anime of the season that absolutely doesn’t sound like it would be a dark fantasy, but some spin-off of the Strawberry Shortcake franchise. This is based on the novels by Miri Mikawa. The director of this adaptation is Yohei Suzuki, written by Seishi Minakami, and produced by J.C. Staff. By the opening of the show and its cute, well-crafted animation, you think this would be something super, pardon the pun, cloyingly sweet, but it really isn’t. It’s rather impressive how this show is able to balance out its nuanced world with flawed humans. The slavery angle is handled better here than most, which is scary that hey, anime can actually tackle this topic and not be absolutely terrible at it. It’s not perfect though, and some parts can be a touch uncomfortable to watch. Still, the show does a good job of mixing all of the lore, world-building, drama, and character development into a show that will be a bit clunky, but an overall intriguing experience.
Ippon Again! (HiDive)
It wouldn’t be an anime season if we didn’t have a show about a group of girls getting into some kind of sport or hobby. This is based on the manga series by Yu Muraoka. The adaptation is directed by Ken Ogiwara, written by Aya Satsuki, and produced by Bakken Record. It feels surprising to me that, as far as I’m aware, there aren’t that many anime about judo. You think with such a strategic and compelling sport, they would find ways to make it creative, but Ippon Again! It definitely aims for a slice-of-life and coming-of-age story about our characters taking the wheel and forming a judo club in their high school. It does the right thing and focuses on the drive our characters have for the sport and for their growing friendship to go the distance to win the nationals in judo. The animation itself looks good, but can be a bit clunky here and there. Otherwise, it’s nice to start the year with a really charming and good sports anime, which isn’t always a given every year.
This season has been chock full of original anime this season, and this is one of them. It’s produced by Ajia-do Animation Works, but is directed by Masaya Fujimori, and written by Renji Oki and famous writer Gen Urobochi. The adventure we set off on with this one has a real solid hook to it about an ex-samurai who is being chased by the government for murdering an important figure. He joins up with a group of hitmen who take down corrupt individuals and while it might not be the most original show in a lot of ways, it all comes down to execution. With its focus on the inner politics of our leads, the world around them is kept interesting and the action is well animated and the characters have a certain charm to them. As long as they can keep it in the same ballpark of being able to combine both a compelling narrative and action, then it can very much be one of winter’s best shows.
Buddy Daddies (Crunchyroll)
Let’s get this out of the way first, this isn’t a rip-off or clone of Spy X Family. It is able to stand on its own. This is an original anime that is produced at one of the best animation studios right now, P.A. Works. It’s directed by Yoshiyuki Asai and written by Vio Shimokura and Yuko Kakihara. Yeah, the premise can sound similar to Spy X Family, due to how it’s an action comedy with a found family hook of two assassins who live under one roof who accidently encounter a little girl who may or may not be the daughter of one of the two hitmen. What it does do well is accomplish some high-octane action mixed with some very goofy hitmen who have to deal with 2023’s first extremely adorable kid character of the year. It doesn’t just rest on the dynamic of two dangerous individuals taking care of a super child-like, well, child. It does give everyone rather depressing backstories and how even though they are fairly different from one another, they all come together cohesively as a family. It has P.A. Works stellar animation, some sweet comedic timing, and touching moments that make this show a great alternative while we wait for Spy X Family Season 2.
Campfire Cooking in Another World With My Absurd Skill (Crunchyroll)
It’s always nice to be happy when a show you are looking forward to is actually really good and just a blast to watch for three episodes. This is based on the light novel series by Ren Eguchi. It’s directed by Kiyoshi Matsuda, written by Michiko Yotoke, and produced by MAPPA. While most isekais struggle to try and copy, rip off, or be the next Sword Art Online or ReZero, here comes this delightfully unique take on the isekai genre where the lead, in fact, doesn’t want to save the world. Instead, with his superpower of being able to order groceries from his world to the fantasy world, has gained a powerful wolf-like deity who makes a pact with our lead, not because he’s the chosen one, but because he can cook delicious food. It’s a show with a light-hearted sense of humor and some really hilarious set pieces and punchlines with how they keep the story fun and worth investing time into. They even find ways to add in a little dark comedy and quandaries of how they eat certain creatures or even if they can, that adds so much flavor and spice to the overall journey. It’s such a breath of fresh air alongside the other amazing isekai of the season that it’s frankly insulting that this show, Faraway Paladin, The Saint’s Magic is Omnipotent and The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess, and Genius Young Lady aren’t the guides to how to make proper modern isekai series. Take a good hook, add a well-written script and cast of loveable leads, and a splash of splendid animation, and you have a recipe for success. It’s easily my favorite anime of the season and one I can recommend to anyone.
Thank you all for checking out my impressions, and if I had to pick my favorite anime of the season to check out, I would watch in no particular order…
Anime Recommendations of Winter 2023: Revenger, Buddy Daddies, Campfire Cooking in Another World with my Absurd Skill, Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady, Ippon Again, Endo & Kobayashi Live, Giant Beast of Ars, Tomo Chan is a Girl, and Trigun Stampede.