The 10 Best Anime Premieres of Spring 2024, Ranked

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The 10 Best Anime Premieres of Spring 2024, Ranked

As we bid farewell to a winter slate anchored by some sublime series, including Frieren and The Apothecary Diaries, the spring anime season is looking like quite a different beast. It’s not that this batch is weak, but instead of being centered around a few anticipated heavy hitters near the top, it is defined by a deep roster of pleasant surprises. Many of these shows came out of left field, and each has the potential to grow into something special (or to collapse into a Wonder Egg Priority-sized black hole). And as a cherry on top, the established names also seem quite strong, including the return of a beloved series that many thought would never receive a full adaptation. Let’s run down the best of what this season has to offer, which, for whatever reason, happens to include a disproportionate number of stories about girls in bands.

Honorable Mentions

As demonstrated in its delirious opening minutes, Train to the End of the World seems unhinged in the best way possible. After the world becomes metaphysically altered into a post-apocalyptic backdrop full of unexpected happenings, Shizuru and her friends set out on a journey. It’s a premiere that is manic, imaginative, and quite strange, but also tethered to the grounded motivations of its heroine, who is trying to find her long-lost best friend. I don’t know what to expect from this one, but that’s largely a good thing.

10. Tonari no Youkai-san

Watch on Crunchyroll

Tonari no Youkai-san is the sleepiest of this season’s sleeper hits. Set in an alternate Earth where humans and yokai (supernatural beings from Japanese folklore) live side by side, we follow the denizens of a rural community as they go about their daily routines. This one radiates a sense of warmth, from its cast of neighbors who genuinely care about each other’s wellbeing to its impressive backdrops that sell the blue skies and chirping cicadas of this summer setting. However, there is also a tiny hint of darkness swirling underneath the comforting ambiance as a young girl named Mutsumi deals with the loss of her father and the encroachment of a mysterious presence known as the void. Before this season, Tonari no Youkai-san wasn’t on the map for me, but its mixture of calming vistas and something more sinister have caught my attention.

9. Laid-Back Camp

Watch on Crunchyroll

The previous two seasons of Laid-Back Camp achieved levels of comfy that were previously thought to be scientifically impossible as it followed Rin and her friends on camping adventures in the great outdoors. From its first episode back, it seems the latest run will do much of the same, capturing the joy of crackling fires, cozy tents, and scenic natural vistas. While the handoff to a new animation studio has had some mixed results (the overly realistic background art can be somewhat distracting), it seems the series’ pleasant vibes and contemplative atmosphere remain.

8. Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night

Watch on HIDIVE

For many, it can be tempting to avoid standing out at all costs, and this is doubly true when you’re younger. Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night follows a teenage girl, Mahiru, who’s given up her love of drawing because she’s afraid of being labeled as “weird,” but she begins to question this choice when she meets Kano, a singer who wears her heart on her sleeve. In particular, we see how this type of self-consciousness is even more potent due to the digital age, where every little action is cataloged and weighed against your peers. But despite these overbearing elements, the fast friendship between the series’ main pair captures the euphoric feeling of breaking free from the tide. Doga Kobo and director Ryohei Takeshita flex their prowess to capture this, blending the past and present as they build towards Mahiru embracing who she is. In the future, the studio should cut down on the leering shots of its protagonist so that its visuals better match its emotional tenor, but thankfully, these elements didn’t return in the second episode. These pitfalls aside, Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night has beautifully captured adolescent anxieties thus far.

7. Whisper Me A Love Song

Watch on HIDIVE

Romance stories live and die by their central pair, so it’s reassuring that Whisper Me A Love Song has already crafted a heartwarming rapport between its leads. There’s Himari, a bubbly and intensely earnest high school freshman, and her upperclassman Yori, a tall, outwardly cool and collected guitar player who belts out a ballad at the entrance ceremony so affecting that Himari declares she’s fallen in love with her at first sight. But things aren’t quite what they seem, and after the two meet, it becomes clear that Yori is the one who has fallen for Himari. While much of this first episode is on the lighter side, largely due to how supportive Yori’s friends are, we also see Yori’s self-doubt, both in her music and in the idea that Himari could really be into her. Still, Whisper Me A Love Song is largely delightful so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the relationship between its main pair goes.

6. GO! GO! Loser Ranger!

Watch on Hulu

It’s easy for stories to lampshade over-used cliches, but it’s much harder to meaningfully engage with tropes while creating something new. Through its premiere, GO! GO! Loser Ranger! seems to be much more than shallow satire, poking fun at superhero tokusatsu tales (like Super Sentai or Power Rangers) as it builds out a world where defeating alien invaders as a costumed crusader has become a commercialized public spectacle. This initial episode was stylish, funny, and surprisingly sharp, following our protagonist, D, a minion from a failed alien invasion who wants to end this farce for good. Telling a story from the perspective of the monster of the week is a killer premise and one that the series has made good on thus far.

5. Spice and Wolf: Merchant Meets the Wise Wolf

Watch on Crunchyroll

Anime production is a tough business, and unfortunately, it’s quite common for even many of the most popular series to never fully adapt their source material. For more than fifteen years, Spice and Wolf has stood as one of the most egregious examples of this trend, a tale that’s widely beloved thanks to its unusual but surprisingly effective mishmash of mercantilism minutiae, fantastical flourishes, and romance, but that only got two seasons. All these years later, we have Spice and Wolf: Merchant Meets the Wise Wolf, a new adaptation that retells things from the beginning so that it can (hopefully) give us the complete story this time. As for this spin on the material, the initial episodes are almost one-to-one with the original show in terms of plot, introducing us to Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant, who meets Holo, a several hundred-year-old wolf deity that takes the form of a (mostly) human girl. From here, the two strike up a contentious partnership, as the former tries to make a name for himself as a merchant, and the latter uses her wisdom and intuition to offer guidance.

Right off the bat, the banter between these two is excellent, and much like the original, Holo steals the show with braggadocious speeches about how deeply cool and awesome she is. Beyond these bursts of boasting, conversations between the pair reveal a world in transition between the past and the present, where old “pagan” beliefs, like the worship of Holo, are quickly being replaced by the expansion of an aggressive new religion, resulting in undercurrents of melancholy for this former goddess. All of this good stuff is intact in this latest adaptation, but if I have some complaints about this rendition, it’s that I’m not entirely sold on the character designs yet, and the direction doesn’t feel quite as punchy as the original run. Still, these flaws side, the animation looks quite solid, and the spirit of the work is very much here, making me hopeful that we’ll finally see the rest of this journey animated.

4. Kaiju No. 8

Watch on Crunchyroll

It is a simple fact that monster movies rule. Kaiju No. 8 not only understands this but finds its own interesting nuances to explore within the conceit of giant creatures stomping through cities. For starters, we don’t follow a mecha pilot or a Kyodai hero who grows to gargantuan proportions to battle kaiju, but the 32-year-old Kafka Hibino, a rank-and-file in the clean-up crew tasked with scrubbing oversized-lizard gore out of street-corners after the battle is over. While I’m certain this conceit will be quickly abandoned (because this is an adaptation of a big Shonen Jump action series and because of where the episode eventually goes), this premiere deftly portrays the grounded details of this monster-besieged setting, a world where workers build scaffolding into the side of downed creatures so they can carve away chunks of meat with industrial chainsaws.

Although this won’t remain the status quo, these sequences demonstrate two crucial things: first, the series seems to be paying attention to worldbuilding details that could make it stand apart from more standard kaiju setups, and second, that Production IG has a talented crew working on this one. The background art and the wide shots of Yokohama look quite impressive, which is important considering cities are always a crucial character (or more specifically, a victim) in these kinds of tales. The action scenes also look great, conveying large-scale destruction and the agility of these big-game hunting soldiers. It doesn’t seem we’ve gotten to the meat of what this story is about as of yet, and I’m curious how much it will have to say about this militarized anti-kaiju force and the nature of this conflict in general, but this debut has me eager for more city-destroying exchanges and what comes afterward.

3. Wind Breaker

Watch on Crunchyroll

If there are two kinds of stories I’m frequently drawn to, it’s tales about the isolating experience of being othered, and also ones where dudes punch each other. Weirdly enough, Wind Breaker nails both of these. We follow Haruka Sakura, a kid who’s been relentlessly bullied and judged due to having heterochromia and mismatched hair, an experience that’s made him increasingly obsessed with proving his worth through fighting. After hearing that Furin High School is a brutal place stacked with formidable opponents, he transfers there with the goal of battling his way to the top. However, things take an unexpected turn when he discovers that the students here aren’t malicious delinquents as rumored but, instead, go out of their way to help their town.

This premiere packs a wallop thanks to how quickly and viscerally it puts us in the protagonist’s headspace. He’s a kid who’s been judged all his life and put in a box because of factors outside his control, eventually resulting in him building up a wall from the outside world. This makes it all the more moving when these walls begin to break down (although he’d be loath to admit it because he’s a total tsundere) after he quickly finds a sense of community in this place where the locals rely on and celebrate this student body. These moments hit hard, and so do the energetic action sequences where Haruka and company beat the snot out of bad guys in displays of smooth, impactful animation courtesy of the ever-impressive CloverWorks studio. Between its well-expressed sentiments about finding belonging and its dynamic fisticuffs, Wind Breaker offers a successful one-two punch.

2. Girls Band Cry

Not Available on Streaming

It’s been less than a year since we got the wonderful 3D-animated music melodrama BanG Dream! It’s MyGO!!!!!, but it seems we already have another show beautifully animated series that is similarly destined to be criminally under-watched. Girls Band Cry follows Nina, a high school dropout who moves to Tokyo to escape her overbearing family. Here, she meets Momoka, a member of her favorite band, and the two strike up a fast friendship as the two quickly come to lean on each other. If a single element immediately stood out here, it’s the outrageously smooth visuals from Toei Animation, which is defined by a degree of expressivity and bounciness I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an anime series primarily using 3DCG, not even those from the talented studio Orange. While most 3D anime are dragged down by stiff movement, here, characters stretch and contort with a Looney Tunes-esque abandon. Stylish 2D flourishes, which call to mind Into the Spiderverse, help further capture characters’ emotions, and cement this one as an unexpected aesthetic treat.

It also helps that our two leads are each compelling in their own right; in a phone call with her family, we can feel Nina’s anxiety over moving to the city, and Momoka’s circumstances are a brutal reminder that it can be borderline impossible to make it as a musician. Although their band journey has just begun, this story has already conveyed how much music means to our protagonist, making it easy for us to become invested in turn. If there’s one big downside here, it’s something that has nothing to do with the show itself: the series isn’t currently on any streaming platforms outside Japan. Let’s hope a distributor corrects that mistake because Girls Band Cry is the most intriguing newcomer of the season. Additionally, it happens to heavily feature anime girls flipping the bird, which is objectively very funny.

1. Sound! Euphonium

Watch on Crunchyroll

There are plenty of anime about high school (probably too many, in fact!), but there is something different when Kyoto Animation is at the helm, a phenomenon perfectly embodied by the music-based drama of Sound! Euphonium. Put simply, this show is one of the best I’ve seen at wringing over-the-top feelings out of everyday circumstances, and its brand of painstakingly realized teenage dream-chasing has been sorely missed. It’s been close to eight long, cold, Kumiko-less years since the series last graced the small screen, and although there were some movies in the meantime (including the heart-shatteringly beautiful Liz and the Blue Bird), its thoughtful tone feels particularly at home in a TV format. In the third season, things pick up where the last movie and OVA left off (minor spoilers ahead); Kumiko is in her final year at Kitauji High, where her concert band has their sights set on winning gold at the Nationals competition.

Within the first minute, it became clear that Kyoto Animation and director Tatsuya Ishihara’s work remains as sharp as ever, delivering a sequence of vividly presented hallways and shining brass instruments as the band’s sound echoes across the campus, a snapshot of time and place so dang specific that returning to this setting after so much time felt like coming back to my own alma matter. Seriously, when the title card hit alongside the crescendo of a jaunty concert tune, it brought back memories of how much emotional damage this one has caused and how it’s able to use gorgeous animation, direction, and characterization to so tangibly put us in these people’s heads. The seeds are planted for that same kind of juicy drama in the latest run, as many of these kids have their eyes set on what’s quickly become their greatest dream: to bring home a gold for the concert band they’ve sacrificed blood, sweat, and (lots of) tears for. This first episode back rings catharsis out of how far these lovable music dorks have come from freshman year, as it reunites us with Kumiko, her “very close friend” Reina, and the rest of the squad, setting up what I expect to be another delight of a season.

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant Games and TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing and watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves film, creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to, and dreaming of the day he finally gets through all the Like a Dragon games. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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