I watched the second season of The Dangers in My Heart (“BokuYaba”) as a simulcast after watching and reviewing the first season. While I do not want to fully spoil my upcoming New Leaf Journal review of season two, I’ll note that the second season is was the strongest anime of winter 2024 and a very early anime of the year candidate (impressive in light of the fact the first season came in outside of my 2023 top six series). The second season finale aired on Saturday, March 30 and I watched it a little bit after midnight on Easter the 31st. It was an excellent final episode that ended on a very sweet note. But maybe it was too sweet. I was satisfied with the way the season concluded but I needed a change before a checked out for the night (or morning). I have been watching Initial D for the first time after being inspired to try it by MF Ghost (which aired in fall 2023). For those not in the know, Initial D mostly consists of street car racing against a Eurobeat sound-track. It is not at all sweet. It has some awful anime romance writing but the races are great fun. I watched the first two episodes of Fourth Stage right after the Dangers in My Heart finale. Just the contrast I was looking for — very satisfying.

I caught up on all the winter series I decided to follow as simulcasts. Below are my (mostly) one-sentence impressions thus far. I publish a year-end top six anime series list annually over at The New Leaf Journal, so I will note which series I view as potential candidates for 2024 based on how they compare to one another and also to series that have made my top-six in previous years.

  • 7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy: It is much better than the ridiculous (somewhat misleading) title and it has had some good episodes, but cracks started to show in the writing and setting with the introduction of a certain sibling.
  • A Sign of Affection (thru 8): This is a solid effort all around and one of the better shoujo series I have seen in recent years — it should be a solid year-end top-six candidate with a good finish. (Note: I may be somewhat biased due to its exemplary attention to hair color detail.)
  • Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun: 2nd Stage (thru 8): This has erred on the disappointing side with its odd pacing and sometimes-shaky writing, but it has had its moments — episode 8 was its best episode of the first 8 and delivered what should stand as one of the better moments in 2024 anime.
  • BUCCHIGIRL?! (thru 6.5): A trashy delinquent comedy that feels like it is from a different era and stays watchable by not forgetting what it is.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (thru 24): It has had some genuinely excellent moments and seems like a near-lock for best aesthetics of 2024, but episodes 18-24 have been shaky (read: boring and very uncomfortable depicting action) to put it generously. It is still a likely top-six prospect but any chance it had to be in the series of the year mix have gone by the first class mage exam wayside.
  • Metallic Rouge (thru 7): It’s a convoluted mess but I’ll watch to the end for some unknown reason.
  • The Apothecary Diaries (thru 20): Its generally strong start has been underminded by its unsatisfying mysteries (a problem for a mystery show) and its passion for using Maomao’s (or Xiaomao’s) long, winding monologues to advance the plot.
  • The Dangers in My Heart (thru 7): The class of the season and the only anime of the year caliber show of the winter bunch.  I expected it to improve over last year’s season one, but not go go from borderline-top six candidate (it missed my 2023 top-six list but would have made 2022) to potential series of the year.
  • Sengoku Youko (thru 7): This is admittedly not my cup of tea but it built up to an excellent episode 7 and has done enough to keep me around so far.
  • Shangri-La Frontier (thru 20): I respect this series for turning the sort of dumb premise that usually makes me run for the hills into a genuinely fun, excellently-animated show that makes for a good watch on Sundays.
  • The Demon Prince of Momochi House (thru 8): I am in a strange place with Momochi where I find it slightly boring but also find myself looking forward to it. So long as the ambulatory daikon (I thought it was a turnip, but it is a raddish) keeps appearing every episode, we have an unexpected borderline top-six candidate with a solid finish.
  • Urusei Yatsura [S3] (thru 9): There’s an animation cut toward the end of the new OP that is about as pretty as anything you will see in anime (AS FOR THE ACTUAL SEASON THEY STILL YELL ALL THEIR LINES SO IT IS STILL VERY MUCH URUSEI YELLSURA).

All in all, winter 2024 has been solid and certainly better than winter 2023, which ultimately yielded no top-six entries in my final 2023 ranking. Dangers in My Heart is a genuine series of the year caliber production through 7 episodes and despite its dull mage exam arc, Frieren is still a strong more-likely-than-not year-end top six candidate. Sign of Affection and Momochi both have top-six ambitions.  I’m still not entirely persuaded by Sengoku Youko, but it is long enough that it may be a good prospect for 2024 if it keeps improving. Tomozaki, 7th Time Loop, and Apothecary Diaries are outside candidates for top-six contention but they would need much stronger finishes than what the episodes which have aired thus far suggest they are capable of.