Fall is in full swing, and with it we’ve received a cornucopia of anime television premieres. As someone who has been watching seasonal anime for a number of years, this is likely the most stacked lineup in recent memory, with plenty of returning high-profile series, anticipated adaptations, and delightfully weird originals. If you’ve ever had an interest in the medium but never made the plunge, now is a great opportunity. This list ranks 10 of the best new or returning shows that have debuted in the last few weeks. Only the first one or two episodes were considered for each, but the rankings consider a series’ potential based on its existing material. Let’s get into it!
Those caught up with Bleach (I am not) will be happy to hear the series returns after more than 10 years to adapt the long final arc of the manga, the “Thousand-Year Blood War.” The premiere’s formidable visuals inspire confidence that the long wait was not in vain. Bibliophile Princess’s methodical pacing and placid direction may be off putting for some, but it is an understated romance that I’m willing to see more of due to its thoughtful portrayal of its book-obsessed heroine. I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss, not to be confused with My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, is a rare “reincarnated in a videogame” anime that didn’t take years off my life. In all seriousness, it’s a mostly well-delivered riff on the “I’ve died and for reasons am reborn in this game I played once” formula that benefits from some solid moments of humor and a largely likable lead. Lastly, Urusei Yatsura is receiving a remake from David Productions, and fans of the original will be delighted to hear that the adaption looks gorgeous so far, with colorful background art, lively animation, and excellent delivery of its ’80s aesthetic. That said, its dated humor will likely prove divisive, and by the end of the episode, I was fatigued by its manic pacing and shrill jokes.
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Death game and battle royale fiction have become all the rage lately. Perhaps the boon is a reaction to lingering political and economic dread, or maybe it’s just because the aesthetics look cool, but Blue Lock cashes in on this trend through the lens of high school sports. The story begins as Yoichi Isagi, a striker on his high school soccer team, is recruited by a government program that will produce a star player meant to lead Japan to a World Cup win. The only catch is that of the 300 students enrolled, only one will be allowed on the National Team, with the rest giving up any future chance at achieving their greatest dream.
Unlike most takes on the genre, their lives are not literally on the line, but the melodramatic direction largely succeeds at putting us in the headspace of these football-obsessed teens. Through cross-hatched character art and self-indulgent monologues, the sometimes comedically grandiose framing calls to mind Tetsuro Araki’s turned-to-11 style on shows like Death Note and Attack on Titan. While this type of visual approach can often come across as more silly than affecting, I’m intrigued by how this battle royale premise is being used to tease at ideas about the brutal selfishness that comes with sports, lingering nationalism, and tensions between collectivism and individualism. Also, I’ll admit that the premiere’s climax, with its maximalist aesthetics and fluid animation, tapped into the sense of juicy betrayal that can make this genre so compelling. I’m not sure if Blue Lock is as interested in its ideas as I want it to be or if it’s more focused on genre thrills, but either way, I’m willing to give it a few episodes to see if it excels at either.
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While relatively low-key compared to many of the big fall debuts, Raven of the Inner Palace has already established itself as a fantastical period drama with some interesting character dynamics. Set in a fictionalized rendition of ancient China, we follow Shouxue, a young woman in the Imperial Court who possesses supernatural powers and lives a hermetical life under the title of the “Raven Consort.” In the first episode, she is tasked with getting to the bottom of a murder so she can lay a tormented spirit to rest. It’s unclear if the series will follow a relatively episodic structure as Shouxue sleuths her way through paranormal happenings or if it will focus more on political intrigue, but both elements already have some interesting wrinkles.
One of the premiere’s throughlines is how those living within the palace walls, particularly women, feel hemmed in by the inner court and live at the whims of those with power. Shouxue in particular is well-rendered, and the series establishes her agency while also acknowledging the constricting systems that surround her. If there is one notable drawback so far, it’s that the show suffers from some limited animation. While it’s partially hidden through flourishes like shadow puppet flashbacks, and there are some impressive moments like when our protagonist uses her powers for the first time, the action scenes are inert. Still, there is enough rapport among its cast and tantalizing questions posed by the first arc to make me interested in seeing more.
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For those completely unaware, the series follows Deku, a teenager who enrolls at the foremost superhero high school in the hope of becoming the number one hero. My Hero Academia has been an up-and-down series over the last few years, hitting some impressive highs in Seasons 2 and 3, only to more recently suffer from pacing issues and stretches of lackluster production. While it’s far too early to say which way the sixth season will go, the first episode was far more engaging than previous premieres (which were thinly veiled recaps) and sets the stage for what might be the largest-scale conflict we’ve seen up until now.
So far, the new season is building on the preceding arc’s dedication to fleshing out its villains, jumping between our protagonists and antagonists as an elaborate tactical tapestry came into view. While this meant a lot of exposition, there were some interesting emotional dynamics as well, like a sleeper agent grappling with the moral ambiguity of his mission or a hero confronting the man who turned his friend into a monster. Despite MHA’s many rocky stretches, I’m intrigued by how this incoming large-scale conflict will throw characters against each other who we’ve come to know over the past 100-plus episodes.
Watch on HIDIVE
Akiba Maid War is an oddball dark comedy action series that, despite being exactly what its title implies, still left me speechless. Set in Akihabara during the ‘90s, the premiere tracks Nagomi, a fresh-faced young woman who finally gets to live out her dream of working at a maid café. However, on her first day working at the “Pig Hut,” she is stunned to find these local cosplay restaurants engaged in an ongoing bloody turf war. The ridiculous premise sticks because of the dedication to the bit, as violence is delivered with mob-movie-style self-seriousness that gave me so much tonal whiplash I may have suffered a concussion. In particular, the first episode ends with a stunning blood-soaked musical number I have rewatched several times just to confirm it wasn’t a fever dream.
In recent years, P.A. Works has become known for producing low-key dramas that successfully depict the working lives of young women trying to make it in a new field (Shirobako, The Aquatope on White Sand, Ya Boy Kongming!). While their latest is clearly an inversion of this trend, it shares its predecessor’s strong character writing. The women working at the café don’t feel like wish-fulfillment bait for otaku but are deservedly cynical over their circumstances. The camera work is largely respectful, and despite the premise, the framing is mostly free of male-gazey fanservice.
However, while the characters feel “grounded,” or at least as grounded as people can be when partaking in shootouts while dressed as maids, the hilarious visual comedy in the closing minutes makes it abundantly clear that the writers are in on the joke. Ultimately, I don’t have the faintest idea where this one will go from here. So far, it is an outrageous parody of the services industry that combines absurd Yakuza-flick-style action with workplace antics. It may ride its insanity to glorious heights like Birdie Wing or wipe out spectacularly, but it certainly has my attention.
Watch on Crunchyroll
While it doesn’t happen as frequently as would be ideal, every now and again, we are treated to an anime original so bursting with passion that it demands attention amidst the endless deluge of sequels and adaptations. Do It Yourself!! fits this mold, and through its expressive characters, weirdly evocative setting, and comfy vibes has quickly proven itself to be a hobby-centric slice-of-life show I can imagine keeping me company during the coming autumn evenings. We follow the clumsy airhead Serufu who, after starting high school, is recruited by the president of a struggling “D.I.Y.” carpentry club.
Although the premise of “an unassuming freshman stumbles into a new hobby” is one of the most common anime setups out there, Do It Yourself!! understands the importance of communicating specificity. The near-future setting, which is rendered in beautiful pastels, is full of vaguely ominous technology, such as automated drone delivery systems and self-driving cars, which will presumably be contrasted against the artistry and care that goes into hand craftsmanship. The character designs have a loose stylized look that helps convey their temperaments, and there are tons of quirky details, like our protagonist’s cadre of adorable pets (including a tiny pig that wears sunglasses). In short, this is a production brimming with personality.
So far, it’s also mostly avoiding the kind of infantilizing characterizations that define many “cute girls do cute stuff” (CGDCT) series, and scenes like Serufu dwelling on how she’s grown away from her childhood friend indicate there’s more going on here than just fluffy good times. The big test for this show will be if it’s able to maintain its charming lackadaisical qualities while still offering just enough narrative propulsion to keep things going, but so far, I’ve bought in thanks to its lovingly rendered coziness and low-key futuristic setting.
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While this season’s lineup of anticipated heavy hitters is impressive, plenty of less-known series have also wowed due to the talented creatives involved. Bochi the Rock is another such example, a music-oriented coming-of-age tale that lands staccatos of jokes while delivering painfully relatable barbs about growing up with social anxiety. We follow Hitori, a self-conscious loner high schooler who teaches herself guitar, largely in the hopes she’ll be able to use this talent to make friends. But after three years of playing, she still hasn’t been able to form the band she’s always dreamed of.
A great deal of what makes the premiere work is its sharp writing that delivers the contrast between our protagonist’s interior monologues and external behavior as her manic inner-thoughts lead to hilarious observations and self-doubts. Jokes are further driven home by great comedic timing and visual humor, such as a goofy sound effect that plays every time she awkwardly avoids eye contact with her potential new bandmate.
In addition to its comedy, CloverWorks have once again crafted a cinematic treat that utilizes carefully formed compositions to externalize the emotions of its characters. Hitori is constantly framed in the background of shots or as separate from others to convey her isolation, effectively pulling us into her headspace. While this type of socially-awkward character can sometimes get on the nerves of more outgoing people who can’t relate, I think the combination of constant humor and visual storytelling will help bridge the gap here. Between its excellent balance of levity and effective character-writing, as well as its enticing setup as a musical drama, Bochi the Rock is one of the big surprises of the fall.
Watch on Hulu
Watch on Crunchyroll
Spy x Family is an action-comedy that has quickly taken the anime world by storm, largely thanks to the adorable antics of one Anya Forger. We follow Loid Forger, an undercover agent in the Cold War-esque city of Berlint, who is forced to form a “fake” family and infiltrate an enemy country’s political circles to avert war. He ends up adopting Anya, an orphan with telekinetic mind-reading abilities, and—at least on paper—marrying Yor, an assassin working for a rival government. While its premise may sound similar to self-serious prestige TV like The Americans, Spy x Family is a (mostly) light-hearted spoof of the nuclear family that is deeply hilarious, often cool, and sometimes touching.
So far, Wit Studio and Cloverworks have gone above and beyond to bring this adaptation to life, and the first season is full of well-delivered gags that I still find myself randomly chuckling over months later. While Loid is technically the protagonist, Anya is the star of the show, as she oscillates between being a little goblin and a precious bean attempting to help her dad with his mission of avoiding a war. And in addition to the many goofs, it convincingly portrays a found family who find solace in each other. Thankfully, the second season’s premiere once again demonstrates the series’ ability to operate as both a tense spy-thriller and family comedy, leaving me confident about what we’ll get from here. As long as its production doesn’t run into issues (something which is unfortunately quite common given the state of labor in the anime industry), it will continue to be must-watch television.
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Man, it’s good to have Mob Psycho 100 back. The first two seasons of the paranormal action-comedy managed to have its cake and eat it too, poking fun at Battle Shonen tropes and the might-makes-right underpinnings of the genre while also delivering kaleidoscopic cuts of action animation. Even more than this, it became one of the best anime in recent memory thanks to its kindness; this story loves its characters, whether they be morally ambiguous conmen, formerly misguided recluses, or good-natured dudes who just really love lifting weights. This pathos is most evident in the treatment of the protagonist Mob, a middle schooler who, despite his outrageously powerful telekinetic abilities, wants nothing more than to fit in with his peers.
The first two episodes of the third season feel like a summation of the series’ existing strengths, bouncing between humor, reflections on the pressures of growing up, and effortlessly delivered set pieces that are as impressive as most anime’s climactic finales. While hauntings and an ominous giant piece of broccoli loom large over these episodes, the true central conflict hinges on Mob’s anxieties about his future. This is all delivered with the same warmth that previously defined the story, and while the main arc has not kicked into gear yet, the intro is a succinct reintroduction to this narrative’s tone. All of this, combined with the fact that most of the key creatives are back on board for this final run, makes Mob Psycho 100 III one of the most promising shows this fall.
Watch on Hulu
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Going into the fall, it’s fair to say the most anticipated show in a stacked season is MAPPA’s adaptation of Chainsaw Man. As someone who recently devoured the manga (as well as almost everything else written by author Tatsuki Fujimoto) and whose brain was subsequently filled with a chorus of revving chainsaws, I shared that borderline unreasonable degree of anticipation. The good news is that the premiere captures the soul of Fujimoto’s work, providing just about everything fans of the series and unsuspecting converts could have hoped for.
Most critically, this first episode conveys the brutal existence of our protagonist Denji. He’s a teenager trapped in insurmountable debt to the mob, who is forced to hunt powerful monsters called Devils to make ends meet. While some have said that Chainsaw Man starts slow, this introduction is a brutal procession of misfortunes that succinctly portrays economic despair and capitalistic exploitation. Denji’s earnings from devil hunting are nickel and dimed by his mobster handlers until he barely has enough to buy a slice of bread. Despite his juvenile aspirations, his desire for a “normal life” is filled with painful longing, and voice acting newcomer Kikunosuke Toya wrings out the teen’s mournful reflections and manic desperation.
While it’s unsurprising that the manga’s effective writing remains intact, MAPPA has clearly gone all out to tap into this adaptation’s potential. Thoughtful direction amplifies Denji’s malaise, each frame of his oppressive existence rendered with an empathetic eye as the score matches the crushing lows and high-octane climax. Subtle character animation helps sell the emotional stakes of the circumstances, amplifying the drama and teasing deeper motivations. Other sequences, like a tense zombie chase, build on the source materials’ reverence for cinema by channeling horror flick framing. It’s clear that MAPPA has their star staff on this project, and the overlap with talent from Jujutsu Kaisen is apparent in its art style and fluid, absurdly technical animation.
That said, I do have some minor gripes and one larger concern. The first is that although the show’s use of 3D CGI looks far better than the studio’s previous attempts at mixing 2D and 3D animation, it still stands out a bit during some moments. Additionally, some aspects of the adaptation’s aesthetic, such as the dim color grading and detailed character art, may clash with elements of the source material, which relies on a wide tonal range and scratchy chaotic art to deliver some of its gut punches.
However, my biggest concern for the show and the people working on it are MAPPA’s history of abusive work conditions that have caused animators to speak out in protest. In the past, similar circumstances have resulted in productions collapsing under their own weight. Chainsaw Man is a truly one-of-a-kind story thanks to its dense subtext, insane turns, and unique tone, and hopefully, MAPPA’s management will give the creatives working on it enough runway to succeed and not be harmed in the process.
Watch on YouTube
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As a Gundam neophyte, I was surprised by how much the latest entry in the franchise bowled me over. While I’m a sucker for well-delivered stories about giant robots, I think a bigger draw is how successfully this premiere cribs on the masterpiece Revolutionary Girl Utena by emulating that show’s premise, shots, themes, and queer romance while still establishing its own identity. Like Utena, things take place at a borderline-feudal rich kid school where beefs and social hierarchy are resolved through duels. In the first episode, heroine Suletta Mercury transfers to the Asticassia School of Technology, has a meet-cute with Miorine Rembran, the heiress of a corporate group that runs the academy, and gets into a mech fight with an annoying elitist bully that resolves in deeply cathartic fashion. Despite being part of an expansive existing property, this latest offering takes place in a separate continuity from other Gundam stories, meaning it can be watched without prior experience.
In some ways, the episode’s success isn’t surprising, as it follows the excellent twenty-minute prologue released on YouTube a month ago, which established intriguing corporate politics and a distinctive art style. Still, I’m impressed by how it made such excellent use of those character setups and previous world-building while pushing the plot in an exciting direction. There is a lot going on here; corporate structures that mirror oppressive feudal systems, ruminations on how technological advancements inevitably become aimed at war, child soldiers, gay romance, giant robot battles, coming-of-age school drama, constant aesthetic and thematic references to Utena, and callbacks to other Gundam series. But if Witch from Mercury can continue to juggle even most of those ideas as well as it has, it will become something very special.
Elijah Gonzalez is the games intern for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing the latest indies and AAAs, he also loves film, anime, lit, and creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.
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