Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken might be the dark horse of Winter 2020.
As 2020 begins, a bunch of brand-new anime series and movies are debuting. In the following guide, we detail the eight anime we're most excited to watch from the Winter 2020 season. We hope you consider adding them to your watch queue too and letting us know what you think. The anime are not listed in any particular order.
As always, GameSpot's seasonal anime round-ups only look at series and movies that are debuting during the current season and releasing in the US for the first time. So, for example, My Hero Academia Season 4 doesn't qualify for this Winter 2020 guide because the episodes that are currently releasing are just the latter half of the season that began airing in Fall 2019. Conversely, Weathering with You does qualify, because even though it premiered in Japan in 2019, it's releasing in the US for the first time this year.
Haikyu: To The Top
You could know absolutely nothing about volleyball and Haikyu would still be one of the most compelling, infectious TV shows you could ever watch. This sports shonen series took the anime world by storm in the previous decade, transforming the competitions of one high school boys' volleyball club into high-speed spectacles with pulse-pounding stakes. The entire third season of Haikyu is just one match, and yet the series manages to maintain its intense pacing all the way through with its incredible characters, vivid animation, and well-structured story arcs.
Haikyu follows the Karasuno High School Boys Volleyball Club, which was once a powerhouse but is now considered to be mediocre. That all changes with the arrival of two first-year students: Shōyō Hinata, who is short but athletically gifted, and Tobio Kageyama, who is ill-tempered but a genius. Together, the two can pull off a never-before-seen volleyball tactic that catapults Karasuno back into the spotlight. The fourth season, Haikyu: To The Top, sees Hinata and Kageyama striving to learn how they can contribute to their team's success without relying on each other. Winter 2020 will also see the release of two more Haikyu original video animations as well, Land vs. Sky and The Path of the Ball, which act as optional precursors to the latter half of Haikyu: To The Top. You can watch Haikyu: To The Top on Crunchyroll.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken isn't the first anime to be about people creating an anime, and it's not likely to be the last. But it's rare to see a piece of media so perfectly capture that first moment of inspiration that compels a kid to pursue their passion, or that euphoric sense of accomplishment when creative minds find their groove and begin bouncing ideas off each other. Plus, the three main characters are so immediately likable, it's worth tuning in just to watch them interact--especially Kanamori, who seems to hide a genuine affection for her friends behind an equally real desire to make money whenever and wherever she can.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken follows three high school students: artistically talented Midori Asakusa, money-obsessed Sayaka Kanamori, and famous model Tsubame Mizusaki. Since elementary school, Asakusa has wanted to create an anime, and she finds a kindred spirit in Mizusaki--who wants to be an animator despite her parents forbidding her from doing anything related to anime. The two decide to come together and make an anime after the urging of Kanamori, who doesn't have a vested interest in either one's dream but can smell that there's money to be made with a big name like Mizusaki attached to the project. You can watch Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken on Crunchyroll.
Though Laid-Back Camp exists in the slice-of-life genre, the anime is best described by its fans as "comfy anime," because bingeing the show will likely compel you to snuggle into a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa. Though episodes of Room Camp, a spin-off, are too short for you to comfortably transform into a member of Secret Society Blanket, the show offers the same adorably funny character interactions as the original series.
Room Camp isn't Laid-Back Camp Season 2--though that is coming, don't you worry. Each episode is a nice bite-size of fun, as Ohgaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi drag Nadeshiko Kagamihara out of the Outdoor Activities Club to go on a journey to enjoy the food and sights throughout Yamanashi. You can watch Room Camp on Crunchyroll.
Like last year's well-received Promare, Beastars tackles the complicated topic of discrimination, featuring two distinct, clearly labeled groups to make it easier to draw a more black-and-white parallel to real-world politics. Though still suitable for younger audiences, Beastars is definitely one of the more mature shows debuting this season--it doesn't shy away from violence and sex, deftly utilizing the two (sometimes simultaneously) to better explore both racism and sexism.
Beastars takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals and primarily follows high school student Legosi, a wolf who struggles with the unease of living in a society where all herbivores are suspicious and antagonistic towards carnivores. Things only become worse when one of his fellow students is brutally murdered, so Legosi takes it upon himself to learn the identity of the killer and displace the growing mistrust for all the carnivores on campus. At the same time, Legosi develops an attraction for Haru, a rabbit, and he struggles with whether to define his feelings as genuine love or the lust to feed on prey. You can watch Beastars on Netflix.
Somali And The Forest Spirit
Somali and the Forest Spirit is about a stoic adult going on a journey with a troublesome but cute-as-heck child they found, resulting in some truly adorable and heartwarming moments. Despite how cute Somali and the Forest Spirit is, though, there's an underlying sadness to it too, making for a story that you know is going to leave you feeling bittersweet--but you can't help getting invested in anyway.
Somali and the Forest Spirit takes place in a world where, surprisingly, the fantastical beings are the dominant race and humans have been nearly driven to extinction. As the last vestiges of humanity are being snuffed out, a lone forest golem discovers an orphaned human girl, named Somali, who takes a liking to him and begins calling him "Dad." The two then set out on a journey in search of a place where a human can be safe, but, unbeknownst to Somali, all golems (as artificial beings) have a set lifespan, and her new father is quickly running out of time. You can watch Somali and the Forest Spirit on Crunchyroll.
Weathering With You
Having already debuted in Japan in July 2019, Weathering with You officially makes its way to US theaters this January. A romantic fantasy, Weathering with You is helmed by Makoto Shinkai, the same director behind 5 Centimeters per Second and Your Name. Narratively and thematically, Weathering with You is similar to Your Name, but whereas Your Name focused more on finding love through fate, Weathering with You is more about finding love despite fate.
Weathering with You follows high school student Hodaka Morishima, who runs away from home to live in Tokyo only to find the city trapped in a perpetual rainstorm. He manages to get a job investigating urban legends, and his first assignment leads to him meeting Hina, a girl with the peculiar power to temporarily pray away the rain. The story in Weathering with You is brought to life through its superb soundtrack--both "Is There Still Anything Love Can Do?" and "Grand Escape" are notable standouts. You can watch Weathering with You in select theaters.
In/Spectre is a wonderful ride, interweaving a rather strange romantic comedy into a story about supernatural battles and murder mysteries. The initial hook of In/Spectre may be the desire to learn about the dark histories of its two heroes, but the story keeps you invested with their everyday interactions. Kotoko and Kurō have a lot of witty back-and-forth between them--even in the thick of battle--and the former's incessant romantic pursuit of the latter will likely elicit a few chuckles.
Main character Iwanaga Kotoko is a young woman who, as a child, was kidnapped by yōkai, only to be returned with her left leg severed and her right eyeball removed. In exchange for these body parts, she gains the ability to interact with supernatural beings, and the yōkai task her as the mediary for the otherworldly. One day, she has the chance to talk with Sakuragawa Kurō, a man she fell in love with and has been quietly stalking for two years, and learns that he also has a history with yōkai--one far darker than hers. Unperturbed by what she learns about him, Kotoko forges a partnership with Kurō, and the two solve supernatural mysteries and dispatch violent yōkai together, all while Kotoko uses the opportunity to try and woo Kurō. You can watch In/Spectre on Crunchyroll.
Like Beastars, Pet is a more mature story, delving into the psychological turmoil of self-inflicted pain for the betterment of others. The unsettling nature of Pet's narrative is juxtaposed against random moments of brightly colored imagery, occasionally bouncing back and forth between them in a disorientating way. Give this anime a few episodes before making a verdict on it--Pet is a bit confusing at first, but everything does fall into place eventually.
The core conceit of Pet is the same as the video game Remember Me; this is a world where certain people, nicknamed "pets," can invade other's minds and alter their memories to fundamentally change the type of person they are. The process of destroying another's mind can take a tremendous toll on the invader, however, forcing pets to take precautions and set up mental blocks to protect their own memories. Main characters Hiroki and Tsukasa look out for each other as fellow pets, working in tandem for their shadowy employer and ensuring neither one loses themselves. You can watch Pet on Amazon Prime Video.