If you’re like me and constantly find yourself busy with a pile of papers that need writing or even if you’re just really busy with work, you might not have the time to try out every anime each season. That’s why, for your ease and comfort, I’ve compiled a list of four great anime from this summer season that you might have missed but should definitely give a shot.
Astra: Lost in Space (Kanata no Astra)
In a not-so-distant future where space travel has become mundane, ten children embark on a school camping trip to the nearby planet McPa. When the kids reach their destination, however, a mysterious wormhole teleports them into uncharted space, where they are luckily saved by the appearance of an abandoned spaceship. Working together, these kids must fight starvation, struggle to survive in uncharted space, and make it back home in one piece. On top of all that, one of the kids might not be as trustworthy as they seem…
Perhaps the least-talked about entry on this list, Astra: Lost in Space seems to have slipped under the radar for a lot of anime watchers, which is a shame since the show was a personal favourite of mine. There’s a lot to love about Astra. Less Lord of the Flies and more Swiss Family Robinson, Astra: Lost in Space depicts people in a desperate situation banding together and doing their best to survive as a group. Because of the emphasis on teamwork, you best believe the series has its fair share of potentially sappy speeches about friendship, but the characters are compelling enough to ground these moments in genuine emotion. Character interaction and development is definitely the strength of the series. While each of the kids is an obvious anime archetype played fairly straight (the shonen protagonist, the stoic glasses-wearing character, the sweet airhead, etc.), the story consistently places the characters in interesting situations that allow them to play off each other in unique ways. Each of the major characters receives a surprising amount of development, particularly main protagonist Kanata and supporting characters Quitterie and Zack. Even though I’ve seen these character types before, the show easily manages to make me care deeply about this cast, and the key to that is well-written humour and character interactions. Despite the potentially grim subject matter, the show remains fun, and quick, well-acted character banter keeps conversations fresh and interesting. Whether familial, platonic, or romantic, the relationships between the crew are funny, sweet, and believably developed.
The sound design of the series deserves notice as well. The score is apt and punctuates each scene effectively, and little details like the static and reverb of the helmet communicators or the heavy, panic-stricken breathing of characters trapped in space deliver a much-needed note of realism and believability to the show. Furthermore, while you’ve definitely heard every voice actor in this show in a similar role in some other anime (oblivious blonde Charce is incredibly reminiscent of Eugeo from last season of Sword Art Online, for example), each voice actor still gives an emotionally impactful performance and brings their character to life.
Aside from moments of awkward CG and a regrettably rushed final episode, Astra: Lost in Space is an engaging, nuanced, and fun anime that feels like a Saturday morning cartoon in the absolute best ways; its easy accessibility and familiarity might even make it a good gateway anime for the non-anime fans in your life. If you like unexpected plot twists or just want to watch a show that feels like hanging out with a bunch of friends on a dangerous adventure, Astra: Lost in Space is the anime for you. The series is currently available for streaming on Funimation.
Just as earnest high-schooler Taiju decides to confess his feelings to his long-time crush Yuzuriha, an unprecedented phenomena occurs, turning all of the human race to stone instantaneously. When Taiju finally awakes and breaks free of the stone encasing his body, he stumbles upon childhood friend and science enthusiast Senkuu, who informs Taiju that 3700 years have passed since humanity’s petrification. Together, the two resolve to save humanity from its mass petrification and restore human civilization to its former glory.
I’m not much of a manga reader, so a lot of upcoming anime aren’t on my radar at all until the season they air, but Dr. Stone has been hyped up so much by various manga readers that it was impossible to ignore for a few months leading up to this anime. Now that the anime is currently at the halfway mark of its first season, I can safely assert that this series absolutely deserves the hype it gets. In an era of generic isekai and other similarly repetitive genres, Dr. Stone distinguishes itself immediately. The animation, style of comedy, and characters are unique, and the story is not at all what you might expect. Unlike Astra: Lost in Space, this season’s other survival anime, Dr. Stone is more interested in a scientific exploration of a survival scenario, focusing on how the characters create things like soap, wine, weapons, or even ramen from scratch in a post-apocalyptic world with no technology, featuring brief asides that simplify scientific concepts enough that viewers could potentially follow along if they wanted to. There’s a pure love of science and experimentation that’s a crucial part of the series’ DNA. However, the show also features jacked high-schoolers killing wild lions with one punch. Despite the shows’ attention to detail and care for matters of science, there’s an almost equivalent irreverence for realism, creating an absurd yet fascinating dichotomous appeal and making it stand out from the rest of this season.
While Dr. Stone probably won’t be winning any awards for subtle storytelling, the show still manages to make its key emotional moments hit, and I’m thoroughly invested in its cast of characters, all of whom are immensely likeable. Main protagonist Senkuu is an unusual anime lead, with no strong convictions about friendship or desire to grow physically stronger; he’s just a nerdy, socially inept kid who loves science, making him one of the strongest people in a world with no scientific knowledge or technological innovation. Perfectly complementing this unusual protagonist is villain Tsukasa Shishio whose brute strength and strong moral convictions make him a perfect foil for Senkuu. While the building of civilization from the ground-up, strategy game style, is definitely the series’ main focus, the tension between the different character’s ideologies keeps things exciting and prevents the anime from feeling dull or too expository.
If you want to watch a fresh and unique anime, Dr. Stone is the show for you this season. I’ve never seen any anime quite like it, and the show has only improved over the thirteen episodes that have currently aired. As we approach the second half of the first season, I can safely recommend Dr. Stone as an anime everyone should be watching this year. Dr. Stone is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
Aggretsuko Season 2
While I avoided putting any other sequels on this list, I made an exception for Aggretsuko, since the series is easy to catch up on (the first season being only ten fifteen-minute episodes). Both seasons of the show are fantastic, delivering The Office-style existential humour alongside absurdist comedy and genuinely heartfelt ruminations on what it means to grow up and be an adult in the working world. The series follows protagonist Retsuko, a red panda who politely represses all of her job-inspired rage until she can let loose at karaoke, where she indulges in screeching along to death metal. While the first season was somewhat episodic, with each episode involving some new workplace drama for Retsuko, the second season provides a much more linear storyline. Retsuko’s accounting company has hired a new intern, uptight badger Anai, whose generational differences cause him and Retsuko to butt heads. Even worse, Retsuko’s personal life is also in turmoil, as she acutely feels the ticking clock on marriage. Struggling with her mother’s arranged marital prospects, contentious coworkers, driver’s license exams, and budding feelings for an unorthodox yet charismatic new man in her life, Retsuko’s life is more chaotic than ever, and this season’s comedy perfectly balances and interweaves each of these plot threads.
Because a lot of the first season’s comedy relied on shock value and the absurdity of the premise of a cute Sanrio mascot screaming death metal, I worried the comedy might get stale with the sequel season. I’m pleased to say the comedy, while a bit different this time around, still works brilliantly. While there are still plenty of metal karaoke asides, the comedy this season is a little more subdued and perhaps a little more sophisticated. Retsuko’s relationship troubles are wholly realistic, and her dissatisfaction and uncertainty regarding her romantic future is simultaneously funny and sad. Furthermore, her workplace troubles with the new intern humorously dramatizes the very real differences between Millennial and Gen Z attitudes regarding employment. Despite its silly premise, Aggretsuko has consistently provided hilarious and accurate social commentary in its two seasons, and I’m eager to see what issues the series tackles next season.
Aggretsuko is currently available for streaming on Netflix. If for some reason you haven’t watched Aggretsuko yet, do yourself a favour and pop on an episode tonight. It’ll bring a smile to your face and provide some catharsis after your own difficult work day.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
If you’re scratching your head, puzzled as to why I put a 90s anime on a list of summer 2019 anime, then this recommendation might not be for you. However, if you’re like me and never saw this series until Netflix licensed and distributed it this June, then this is an anime you definitely don’t want to put-off any longer.
Set in the then near-future but now near-past of 2015, Neon Genesis Evangelion depicts a futuristic Japan, where the regular appearance of alien invaders has turned Tokyo into a warzone. Shady military company NERV has developed EVAs, a line of giant mecha robots that require child pilots, in order to combat these alien threats. Enter Ikari Shinji, a fourteen year old boy whose estranged father Gendou is the commander of NERV. For unknown reasons, Shinji is able to synchronize with the mysterious EVA Unit-01, and it’s now up to him to save humanity from certain destruction.
An absolute classic, Neon Genesis Evangelion completely lives up to its reputation but not in the ways I expected. While there are certainly some exciting mecha-on-alien fight scenes, the series is far less interested in shonen action than thoughtful introspection. The story is essentially an extended character study of protagonist Shinji and a look at the complicated and flawed people that exist in his life. It’s also an often bleak look at the lives of those who serve in the military and how that lifestyle prevents any kind of genuine emotional connection or communication. The cast of characters is as dysfunctional as they are likeable, and just when you think you finally understand what makes these complicated characters tick, you discover yet another layer of their insecurities and the walls they put up to protect themselves. Rarely does an anime have such a compelling and well-drawn cast that both endears and frustrates the audience to the degree that Neon Genesis Evangelion’s cast does.
While Evangelion either originates or typifies a number of anime tropes, such as the tsundere, the emotionless girl, sexualized minors, or a socially awkward male protagonist that acts as a stand-in for the audience, it manages to handle all of these tropes with grace and creativity. Evangelion is deeply critical of the tropes and ideologies within anime we take for granted and forces us to take a long look at our own entitled sense of self-preservation and the ways we objectify and use the people around us. If the series’ varied critiques of human nature and its interest in different schools of philosophical thought (particularly Freudian psychology) make the anime seem too cerebral and uninteresting, don’t worry; there’s a healthy amount of brutal and exciting action and haphazard but visually appealing religious imagery to keep you interested for its 26-episode run. So, stop putting off this classic anime, and put on an episode the next time you’re able to. Just be sure you also watch the film End of Evangelion once you’re done with the series. Trust me, you’re going to need to see the movie when you finish the main series if you want the proper ending.
Obviously, there are some other good anime I didn’t cover on this list, mainly because I also don’t have the time to keep up with every anime each season. Not mentioned here are likely a dozen Isekai anime I couldn’t name even if I tried, and maybe a similar number of anime about cute girls doing sexually suggestive activities together. However, if those aren’t your cup of tea either and you only have time to fit one anime into your busy schedule, I recommend checking out one of the anime on this list, as each offers something unique from the typical anime fare.