There are some good new shows starting right now, but I want to talk about a little gem that has given us two brief episodes over the past couple of months: Eve no Jikan イヴの時間 ("The Time of Eve").
The show is beautifully and atmospherically animated, with great voices, interesting characters and relationships, and a developing plot. This is real science fiction, set in a time in the near future after robots have been widely accepted, but just as human-like android robots are coming to be used in many people's homes. (click screencaps to enlarge)
The teenage protagonist (Fukuyama Jun) is fascinated with his family's new android (played by Tanaka Rie), which looks like a woman in her twenties. He notices some anomalies as he pores over the records of its movements. There are times when it is out shopping that there is a gap in the data.
He and a friend track down the place the android went. They discover a little coffee-house hidden away in an alley. The club, called The Time of Eve, has a special rule: no discrimination between humans and robots. This seems to skirt the fringes of the law, which calls for a clear distinction between the two. He gradually realizes that some of the people there are actually androids, even though they do not show the rings of light that normally project above an android's head, showing its connection with its master.
Each episode is only fifteen minutes long, but is filled with incident, intelligence, and feeling. The "humanity" of androids is a common enough theme in written science fiction, but this is doing a good job of weaving an animated story around it. And at the end of episode two, we see that there might be something more going on than meets the eye.
In addition to Jun-chan and RieRie, the cast includes Yukana, Satou Rina, Sawashiro Miyuki (as a five-year-old), and Sugita Tomokazu.
The show is written and directed by 28-year-old creator Yoshiura Yasuhiro 吉浦康裕 (homepage) of Directions, Inc. It is officially streamed free via Yahoo or Crunchyroll, without DRM, and with English or French subs. Details on the show's English homepage.
Two of the ONA's six episodes are already out. The next one is due out in early December. The first episode came out at the beginning of August, but I only discovered it in late September. Now I think this is one of the top shows of 2008.