For me, the best way to guess how good a coming anime will be, is by looking at its staff: the director and writers and animation director and sound director, and so on. People who have made good shows before tend to make good shows again.
I sometimes start watching a show for its voice actors, but I can't keep watching unless the staff builds a good show around them. Even genre or story outline or character design do not predict as well as staff.
The following previews give highlights of staff and cast for 30 upcoming summer shows -- series, OVAs and movies -- as well as story outlines, pictures, and links to preview videos, where available.
Here are the shows, in the order of their first broadcasts. Times are given in Japanese TV listing style: "26:00 Thursday" means Friday morning at 2 a.m. Titles in red are shows I myself find particularly interesting:
Ikkitousen - Great Guardians.
一騎当千 Great Guardians.
A new series of ecchi Ikkitousen. If you don’t like seeing pantsu and breasts, don't watch this one. The story revolves around three schools that fight each other and is loosely based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
A great cast includes Asano Masumi, Kaida Yuko, Horie Yui, Nabatame Hitomi, Inoue Kikuko, and Hino Satoshi.
This show has basically the same staff as the first series, but with a new writer, Akaboshi Masanao (Sadamitsu the Destroyer; Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry).
Broadcasts have already started. anim: Arms. subs: Arthemis, Chihiro, Nightshade-yesy. forum. preview. 09:30 wed11jun.
Telepathy Girl Ran
What draws me to this show is Katou Emiri (Kagami in Lucky Star, Sakuya in Candy Boy, Blair in Soul Eater) in her first real starring role. Alongside Seki Tomokazu, no less, and supported by Ueda Kana. Maybe that seiyuu award actually meant something. At least it may have got Emirin more good roles.
"Telepathy Shoujo Ran is a story of personal growth and friendship. Isozaki Ran is an energetic junior high school student who happens to have ESP but doesn't realize it until she meets Naha Midori. Strange events start happening after she learns of her new powers, so she decides to investigate them together with Midori and her childhood friend Ayase Roi." (from Toua, on AnimeSuki) From a series of children's novels.
The director is so unknown that I can’t even find the pronunciation of his name. 大宙征基 could be Takahiro Seiki or Hiromichi Seiki. He appears to be a storyboard specialist, having storyboarded episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Pani Poni Dash. But this appears to be his first directing job. anim: Tom's Entertainment. subs: Nocturnal/DFC. 18:25 sat21jun.
NOTE: I enjoyed episode 1. The story was intriguing. The backgrounds and sound were great. And Emirin did an excellent job with Ran.
Ultraviolet: Code 044
Paku Romi stars in a series directed by famous old-time director Dezaki Osamu, who directed Ashita no Joe, Ace wo Nerae, Rose of Versailles, the AIR and Clannad movies, a number of Lupin III shows and the great yuri melodrama Oniisama-e.
The main character '044' is a female warrior who is genetically engineered with high combat skills and ordered by the government to annihilate a vampire army. (from anidb)
With production from Sony Pictures, I expect high production values. And I expect Paku Romi to be in her element, aided by Tomokazu Seki and Koyama Rikiya. Madhouse. 12eps. subs: Moetaku? Ureshii? forum. preview. 22:00 tue01jul.
The fourth series in the Slayers franchise, which began in the early 1990s.
The big deal here for me is the return of Hayashibara Megumi in the starring role of Lina Inverse, the same starring role she has played in all the other Slayers shows. And as usual, she also sings the OP and ED. Ishida Akira and Midorikawa Hikaru also return, and Kobayashi Yumiko joins the cast.
Director Watanabe Takeshi is now even better known for the Shakugan no Shana series than for Slayers. anim: JC Staff. 26?eps. subs: Mishicorp, Toki. forum. preview (OP). 25:20 wed02jul.
Mahō Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora
One of my picks to click this summer, a new series of the delightful Someday's Dreamers. The story follows a new young mage in training, in a Tokyo where magic is an official public service.
The new anime comes with a new director, a new studio, and a new cast, but the same writer: Yamada Norie, who wrote the original manga and anime. That gives me comfort, and the rest of the staff and cast make me optimistic, too.
Someday's Dreamers was from JC Staff, this new anime is from Hal Film Maker. It is directed by Kobayashi Osamu, who did BECK and Paradise Kiss, two very good shows, but very different in tone from the original Someday's Dreamers.
The new anime stars the wonderful Hanazawa Kana (Sora in Sketchbook), who is in the running for moe-est voice in anime. With her is Maeno Tomoaki, who is very good as Doujou in Library Wars. Inoue Marina, Koyama Rikiya, Namikawa Daisuke, and Takahashi Mikako are also on board. Music by Hakata Takefumi (Someday's Dreamers, Vampire Knight). anim: HAL Film Maker. subs: White Light, Mellow? Formula? forum. preview. 26:40 wed02jul.
I sure hope this show is okay, since it has an outstanding cast: starring the so-far somewhat ordinary Fukuen Misato, but extremely well supported by Chiba Saeko, Nazuka Kaori, Sawashiro Miyuki, Tanaka Rie, Saitou Chiwa, Koshimizu Ami, and Kadowaki Maii. Whew, what a list.
On the surface, it looks like a rerun of the 2006 OVA and of Sky Girls: girls flying light mecha in battle. But the staff is completely different, except for the character designer, and this show is by Gonzo rather than JC Staff. I liked Sky Girls, but my hopes for this show are not high.
Director Takamura Kazuhiro is new, but did character design and animation for Mahoromatic and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World. Writer Tamai Tsuyoshi did Inukami. Humiane Shimada is the original creator and did character design for both this and Sky Girls. anim: Gonzo. subs: Live-eviL, Moetaku? forum. preview (2006 OVA). thu03jul.
Keiichirou quits his job on a whim and starts a traditional Western-style patisserie. His father hires an expert patissier who turns out to be a gay acquaintance of Keiichirou's from high school.
Director Okumura Yoshiaki has nothing more to recommend him than Bakkyuu HIT! Crash Bedaman, but writer Takahashi Natsuko did the adaptations of Moyashimon and Blue Drop.
Miyano Mamoru, Miki Shinichirou, and Fujiwara Keiji make a great main cast.
The story is from a novel, was a successful TV drama in 2001, and has been made into a film in Korea this year. It's the Noitamina show this season. anim: Nippon Animation, Shirogumi. 12?eps. subs: Yoroshiku. 24:45 thu03jul.
Hidamari Sketch x 365
Season two of the excellent slice-of-life art-school comedy from Shinbou Akiyuki and Shaft.
Kugimiya Rie, Fukuen Misato, and Sawashiro Miyuki are added to the cast, which already included Asumi Kana, Mizuhashi Kaori, Gotou Yuuko, Shintani Ryouko, and Matsuki Miyu. anim: Shaft. subs: SpoonSubs. forum. 25:25 thu03jul.
Birdy the Mighty - Decode
A new take on gender-bending, as a hapless shounen is accidentally killed but survives by becoming merged with a glamorous interplanetary agent. Remake of the 1996 OVA.
Chiba Saeko proves there is seiyuu work after marriage with the starring role of Birdy the agent. And we get to hear Itou Kanae in her first role since helping make Shugo Chara a hit. Irino Miyu and Fujiwara Keiji round out an attractive main cast.
Directed by Akane Kazuki, director of Noein and Escaflowne. Written by Ohnogi Hiroshi, who did Noein and Aquarion. Music by Kanno Yuugo, who did Toshokan Sensou and Hataraki Man. Top sound director Aketagawa Jin (Ichigo Mashimaro, KimiKiss, Genshiken) rounds out a solid staff.
I have high hopes for this one. anim: A-1 Pictures (Ookiku Furikabutte, Persona). 13eps. subs: Orange-Side, Infinite-Zero, Moetaku? forum. preview. 25:00 fri04jul
Ryoko's Case File
Another promising show. Based on a series of light novels written by Tanaka Yoshiki and illustrated by Kakinouchi Narumi. The story revolves around Ryouko Yakushiji, brilliant and madly energetic multilingual investigator with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Ryoko not only has to deal with supernatural beings, but also with her rival Yukiko, another talented and beautiful police investigator. (from anidb)
Director Iwasaki Tarou is new, but he has done episodes and storyboards for shows like Fullmetal Alchemist, Ookiku Furikabutte, and Ghost Hound. Writer Kawasaki Hiroyuki is an old hand who wrote The Irresponsible Captain Tylor and Sakura Wars. The original novel is by Tanaka Yoshigi, who wrote Legend of the Galactic Heroes. We have some interesting names writing this show.
The cast is also interesting, with Nabatame Hitomi in the lead role, backed up by Kuwashima Houko, Fukuen Misato, Kiuchi Hidenobu, and Nojima Kenji.
Japanese title: Yakushiji Ryouko no Kaiki Jikenbo. anim: Dogakobo. 13eps. subs: Hitode-AnimeSS, Infinite-Zero? forum. preview. 24:30 sat05jul.
Promising fanservice anime (this is not an oxymoron) about a loser on whom one day a busty miko drops from the sky. She moves in with him, in the midst of constant fighting with other similarly well-endowed creatures, all of whom are "sekirei" fighters.
Extremely attractive cast stars brilliant 17-year-old Hayami Saori, along with other outstanding young voices such as Inoue Marina, Hanazawa Kana, and Endou Aya. Directed by Kusukawa Keizou, who directed Inukami and the two most recent Nanoha series. Anime adaptation by Yoshioka Takao (DearS, Elfen Lied, Yoshinaga's Gargoyle, Sky Girls).
I'll be watching this for Hayamin, who sounds to me in the preview as if she has taken another step forward. She and her fellow seiyuu -- all of whom are good singers -- do the OP and ED. Sound director Aketagawa Jin (Genshiken, Ichigo Mashimaro, Honey & Clover, etc.) will make sure we get the best from the cast. anim: Seven Arcs (Nanoha series, Inukami). subs: Moetaku? Tsundere Built My Hotrod. forum. preview. 23:30 wed02jul.
Zero no Tsukaima - Princess Rondo
ZnT never did much for me, but it did enough for a lot of people that it is now getting its third season.
Kou Yuu, who directed the second series, is back again. This time, Hasegawa Nahoko, who adapted Hidamari Sketch, is the lead writer.
And we have a similar cast back, featuring Kugimiya Rie and Hino Satoshi as the leads, with Horie Yui as everyone's favorite maid, Siesta. Noto Mamiko joins the main cast, too, as Tiffania Westwood. anim: J.C. Staff. 13eps. subs: Toki. forum. 24:30 sun06jul.
Neo Angelique Abyss: Second Age
ネオ アンジェリーク Abyss -Second Age-
The best Angelique series ever gets an immediate second season. The infusion of new production blood, especially from the staff of Corda D'Oro, gave this series a new lease on life.
Endou Aya helped, too, continuing a remarkable year that has also given her starring roles in the new Mai-Otome Sifr OVA and in Macross Frontier. And she will be ably supported here by a bevy of top male seiyuu, likely continuing to include Takahashi Hiroki, Ohkawa Toru, Nakamura Yuuichi, Ono Daisuke, et al. anim: Yumeta. subs: Strawberry-Mint. 26:00 sun06jul.
Natsume Yuujin Chou
Natsume Takashi keeps secret his ability to see spirits. However, once he inherits a strange book that belonged to his deceased grandmother, he discovers the reason why spirits surround him: a binding contract was formed between the spirits and the owner of the book. Now Natsume is determined to free the spirits and dissolve the contracts. With the help of a spirit cat, his days are filled trying to return the names to these spirits. The show is apparently based on good research into folk mythology.
This is one of the most attractive shows of the summer: the director of Koi Kaze, Jigoku Shoujo, and Baccano; the writer of Ai Yori Aoshi, Jigoku Shoujo, and Zetsubou Sensei.
The cast of actors includes Kamiya Hiroshi in the lead, with Kobayashi Sanae, Sawashiro Miyuki, Fujimura Ayumi, and Itou Miki. Inoue Kazuhiko (Gorou in Moonlight Mile) is the cat. anim: Brains Base. subs: Nocturnal/Black Lotus, ainex?. forum. preview. 25:00 mon07jul
A sequel to the charming but awkward and forgettable Code-E. Five years after Code-E, Chinami is in an organization aiming to integrate people with her powers into society.
Director Kato Toshiyuki did Full Moon wo Sagashite, as well as Code-E.
Voices include Hashimoto Mai, Nazuka Kaori, Mizuno Risa, Momoi Halko, and Kamiya Hiroshi. anim: Studio Deen. subs: Subbers Anonymous. forum. preview. 25:05 mon07jul
World Destruction: Sekai Bokumetsu no Rokunin
I've gone off Production IG. Their shows tend to be beautiful but boring. But this show is still one of the most intriguing of the season. A great cast stars Sakamoto Maaya and Miyano Mamoru, with Ono Daisuke and Kobayashi Yu in supporting roles.
Director Tada Shunsuke did Prince of Tennis National Tournament and Tsubasa Tokyo Revelations. Writer Yokotani Masahiro did Reideen.
Based on a DS RPG by SEGA. The game centers on a youth who secretly possesses the power to destroy the world. He is forced to join a party that aims not to save the world, but to eradicate it and start anew.
On a desert planet, a fateful meeting between a good-hearted wandering boy and a positive, determined girl. Then they and a "hard-boiled" mini-bear alien set off to destroy the world, for its own good. anim: Production IG. 13eps. subs: Orange-Side, Nocturnal, Yoroshiku, Toki. forum. preview. 25:30 mon07jul.
Get ready for an all-moe retelling of the Romance of the three Kingdoms. It gives me pause that it is written by Go Zappa (Chokotto Sister, Myself;Yourself). And that the chief animator and character designer is Oshima Miwa (Cosmopolitan Prayers, Love Love). But it is directed by Nakanishi Nobuaki (Kasimasi, Sumomo mo Momo mo)
The seiyuu are neither young nor well-known, but are experienced game seiyuu. This worked for ef, perhaps it will work here.
Not very promising, but anything based on the Three Kingdoms is worth a look. anim: Dogakobou (Myself;Yourself). 12eps. subs: Serin, DFC, Hitode? forum. 26:00 tue08jul.
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
Yuko discovers that school princess, Nogizaka Haruka, is actually an otaku. He keeps her secret and they become friends. Based on a series of light novels.
Wonderful cast stars Noto Mamiko, with Satou Rina, Shimizu Kaori, Ueda Kana, Matsuki Miyu, Nabatame Hitomi, and Takagi Reiko.
Should be funny…and ecchi. Director Nawa Munenori did Otome wa Boku ni Koi wo Shiteru. The writer who adapted the novels (Tsuyoshi Tamai) did the same for Inukami. anim: Studio Barcelona (Kodomo no Jikan). subs: Moetaku. forum. 26:00 thu10jul
Blade of the Immortal
"To end his eternal suffering, he must slay one thousand foes!" Manji, a ronin warrior of feudal Japan, has been cursed with immortality. To rid himself of this curse and end his life of misery, he must slay one thousand evil men. His quest begins when a young girl seeks his help in taking revenge on her parents' killers…. Based on a seinen manga by Samura Hiroaki, serialised in Afternoon." (anidb)
Bee Train and Mashimo Kouichi (.hack shows, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle) are back with a high-concept samurai show from what appears to be a very strong (and bloody) manga.
Seki Tomokazu and Satou Rina will be great as the leads, ably supported by such names as Konishi Katsuyuki, Noto Mamiko, Toyoguchi Megumi, Miki Shinichirou, and Sakamoto Maaya. anim: Bee Train. subs: Live-eviL. forum. preview. 24:00 sun13jul
Mahou Sensei Negima! ~Shiroki Tsubasa Ala Alba~
魔法先生ネギま！～白き翼 ALA ALBA～
Three episodes of summer holidays with Negi and the girls. Directed by the man himself, Shinbou Akiyuki. But this time, for the first time, the lead writer for the anime is Akamatsu Ken, the original mangaka. So I look forward to seeing what differences in tone and story might appear this time.
The same cast return, including Satou Rina as Negi and all the rest, but with the addition of Ono Daisuke and Inoue Marina.
I'm not perfectly certain of the date this will appear. MoonPhase says July 17, but the official site says ep1 will be 12aug, ep2 17nov, and ep3 17feb of next year. anim: Shaft. OVA, 1of3eps. forum. preview (via Moetron). thu17jul.
School Rumble Sangakki
Hirano Aya joins the established cast, which already includes Horie Yui, Noto Mamiko, Koshimizu Ami, and Takahashi Hiroki, among others. Since Ami and Aya are two of my favorite seiyuu, I look forard to hearing them together.
Director Takamatsu Shinji has already demonstrated that he is more than a one-hit wonder, with Gintama and Ginban Kaleidoscope.
anim: Studio Comet. OVA, 1of2eps. Second ep 17sept. forum. thu17jul.
Ponyo on a Cliff
This time Miyazaki will tell a story drawn freely in watercolors and pastels about a 5 year old boy Sosuke and the princess goldfish Ponyo who wants to become human.... An extra interesting thing is that the Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son) of when he was 5 years old has been chosen as the model for the main character Sosuke. This is interesting because in the summer of 2007 Goro Miyazaki made his director’s debut with Studio Ghibli’s Gedo Senki and Miyazaki senior was very critical of it. (from Ghibliworld via anidb)
My favorite Ghibli, Whispers of the Heart, was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki. And the old man's most recent work, Howl, was just okay for me. So I'm not as excited about this movie as some people are. anim: Ghibli. movie. forum. sat19jul.
CG/stop motion animation. Slice of life show following five otaku girls who live in the "Maison de Akiba" apartments. Shimizu Ai, Ishizuka Sayori (Sango in ToHeart2), Fujita Saki (whose voice samples are the basis of Hatsune Miku's voice), and Yuzuki Ryouka. Five ten-minute episodes. anim: Buildup Entertainment. 10x5min eps. preview. 24:00 thu24jul.
Amuri in Star Ocean
Weird but enjoyable 3DCG science fiction involving genetically altered lolis in space and lots of beautiful explosions and effects.
With Makino Yui, Saitou Momoko and Aizawa Michiru (Furoe in Simoun) in the lead roles, supported by Mamiko Noto, Kaneda Tomoko, and Hirano Aya (after ep1).
anim: Studio Hibari. OVA, 2of3eps. ep3 26sept. forum. preview. fri25jul.
Lupin III: Sweet Lost Night ~Mahō no Lamp wa Akumu no Yokan~
ルパン三世 sweet lost night～魔法のランプは悪夢の予感～
Few details are available so far about this new Lupin special. anim: Tokyo Movie. TV special. subs: Froth-Bite. fri25jul.
The Sky Crawlers
Love story with a military science fiction background. Director Oshii Mamoru did the Ghost in the Shell movies.
He uses film actors as his stars: Kikuchi Rinko was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Babel. Kase Ryou was Mayama in the Honey & Clover movie.
Music by Kenji Kawai (Windy Tales, Death Note, Higurashi). Animation/chara-des by Nishio Tetsuya. Written by dorama writer Itou Chihiro (e.g., Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu).
Oshii is a friend and competitor of Miyazaki and did GITS: Innocence. anim: Production IG. movie. forum. preview. sat02aug.
Naruto Shippuuden: Kizuna
劇場版NARUTO-ナルト- 疾風伝 絆
The next Naruto movie. "A mysterious group of ninjas makes a surprise attack on the Konohagakure, which takes great damage. The nightmare of another Shinobi World War could become a reality. Sasuke, who was still a missing nin from Konoha trying to kill his brother, Itachi, appears for the second time in front of Naruto at an unknown location to prevent it from happening." (ANN)
Director Kamegaki Hajime did Fushigi Yuugi, Ayashi no Ceres, and Air Gear. Writer Takegami Junki did Gunslinger Girl and Hayate no Gotoku. anim: Pierrot. movie. sat02aug.
Detroit Metal City
Souichi Negishi is a shy young man who comes from the country to Tokyo for college, wanting to become a kindergarten teacher. However, for some reason he becomes the singer and songwriter of a metal band named 'Detroit Metal City.' When he puts on the heavy makeup, Negishi becomes a completely different person, shouting profanities. As the popularity of DMC increases, Negishi starts worrying that his double personality could have negative effects on his (romantic) life off stage. (from ANN)
This one is flying a bit under the radar, but it comes from Studio 4°C, and the director did Mushishi, so there is some quality behind it. Character design and animation by Shimamura Hidekazu (Honey & Clover). anim: Studio 4°C. OVA. preview. fri08aug
Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel
The twins live an exciting but normal school life, then after school, they become the Thieving Angels.
Stars Tamura Yukari and Noto Mamiko.
DirectorNagai Tatsuyuki did Honey & Clover II and Idolmaster Xenoglossia. Writer Kurata Hideyuki did Now and Then, Here and There. Animation director Koga Makoto did ARIA and sola.
anim: Nomad. OVA. 1of2eps. ep2of2 in sept. fri08aug
Lucky Star OVA
Lucky Star is back for a one-shot OVA. Interesting to see what happens now that fired original director Yamamoto Yutaka is long gone and this is entirely Takemoto Yasuhiro's baby.
The seiyuu cast is having a great year, with awards for Hirano Aya (best lead female) and Katou Emiri (best new female seiyuu), and good new roles for both them (Chiko and Kaoru for Aaya; Sakuya and Blair for Emirin) and Endou Aya (Angelique, Sheryl).
The release date for this was recently changed from the end of August to the end of September. Speculation is rife that it had to do with changing the plot to remove scenes of violence in Akihabara, after the recent knife incident. Or that the script is late. But this kind of date shift is common, and it may be due to some commercial consideration or other.
anim: Kyoto Animation. OVA. 1of1eps. forum. fri26sept.
-- "forum" is the AnimeSuki forum for each show
-- English titles link to the Anime News Network encyclopedia page, when there is one
-- Japanese titles link to the Japanese official site.
-- "subs" means sub groups who plan to sub particular shows, based mainly on the current Who Subs What wiki that many sub groups post to before a season starts.
-- other information is from ANN, AnimeSuki, anidb, Moonphase, and official sites.