Our latest recs are a grab bag of Summer shows, carryovers, and endearing oddballs you might have missed.
How did we choose our recs?
Participating staff members can nominate up to three titles and can also co-sign other nominated shows. Rather than categorizing titles as “feminist-friendly” or “problematic,” they are simply listed in alphabetical order with relevant content warnings; doing otherwise ran the risk of folks seeing these staff recommendations as rubber stamps of unilateral “Feminist Approval,” which is something we try our hardest to avoid here.
The titles below are organized alphabetically. As a reminder, ongoing shows are NOT eligible for these lists. We’d rather wait until the series (or season) has finished up before recommending it to others, that way we can give you a more complete picture. This means we also leave out any unfinished split-cour shows, which we define as shows that air their second half within a year of the first.
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead will not be eligible for recommendation until it returns from its indefinite hiatus.
Here’s what the team thought—let us know your picks in the comments!
Recommended by: Vrai
What’s it about? Late transfer student Chihaya Anon has her work cut out for her when she realizes everyone’s already got a social group, i.e. their own bands. In a scramble, Anon tries to get her own group together, but it’s not going to be easy–it seems like the only people she can find are the remnants of another band’s messy implosion.
Content warnings/considerations: Depression, anxiety, stalking, briefly implied parental abuse
I’d like to start with a shout-out to the AniFem Discord: without their enthusiastic weekly chats I’d likely have slid past this one as a title aimed squarely at people who are already invested BanG Dream! franchise fans. Which would have meant I’d have missed out on one of the best high school dramas this year.
While this is a largely standalone story from the larger BanG Dream multimedia franchise (barring the occasional cameo by other bands), it does come with a different barrier to entry: its visuals. The 3DCG is stiff and limiting, especially in the first two episodes, though it’s clear the creative team is pushing the models for as many subtle expressions as they can eke out, and the camera work gets particularly creative during the big concert sequences. As someone who prioritizes pure animation quality maybe fourth behind writing, voice acting, and shot composition, it was a forgivable annoyance; some shows you just muscle your way through for the writing, and this is one finely written story.
Series composer Ayana Yuniko has been an AniFem feature in years past for adapting given and writing the first (superior) half of Flip Flappers, but this show really cemented my interest in following her career closely. MyGo approaches high school like a classic shoujo, punctuating high melodrama with quiet scenes of emotional truth. Everything is the end of the world in high school, and the story invites you to share that headspace with the characters without becoming exhausting. But for every blowout screaming match, it’ll wordlessly impart a character’s emotional drive from her parents’ divorce, or another feeling alienated by microaggressions during her study abroad.
Autistic-coded Tomori particularly warmed my heart. The broad strokes of her character—shy, socially awkward, cooed over by other girls in her class—can be infantilizing in the wrong hands, but MyGo allows her real dignity. Much of her arc comes from feeling inhuman because she struggles to cry or socialize easily, while her love of collecting things put her out of step with classmates. As is so often the case, no actual language around neurodivergence is used, but I was touched by the care taken with a character who could’ve felt cheap.
The show does end with a sequel hook focusing on a different band, and I was surprised to find myself hyped. I might not enjoy cast-of-hundreds-type multimedia series, but if Ayana wants to keep throwing focused character pieces from this universe out, consider me a convert.
Recommended by: Alex, Caitlin, Cy, Dee, Lizzie
What’s it about? Saimori Miyo is the eldest daughter in her noble family, but she wasn’t born with supernatural talent. As a result, she’s passed over for her younger sister and abused by her family. In the hopes of getting rid of Miyo, her family offers her in an arranged marriage to a cold-hearted commander named Kudou Kiyoka. Assuming she’d be thrown out by her fiancé, she prepares for the worst, but is surprised that Kiyoka offers her a place where she can learn to love herself.
Content Warnings: Physical, verbal, and emotional abuse
I’ve never been one for Cinderella stories, so when I learned that My Happy Marriage was something of one, I’ll admit, I was leary. I struggle with love stories at base; I struggle even more with Disney love stories. While Cinderella is a tale as old as time (pardon the pun and the reference to a completely different film), Disney’s Cinderella is the story I know, and I remain not a fan.
But there’s something that drew me into My Happy Marriage, enough that I’m steadily devouring the manga and novels because I just can’t get enough of Miyo’s story, including the genuinely sweet romance at its heart. It’s nice to see a character who’s been so downtrodden be happy. Every smile, whether tentative or unabashed, feels so heartachingly lovely that it’s easy to be drawn into the narrative at play, just to see Miyo be happy one more time.
It’s not always easy—there’s a lot of abuse that happens to Miyo, so viewers, please watch with kindness and caution. But seeing her go from literal rags to kind riches is well worth it if you go in aware.
And honestly, seeing Miyo get good things, get love and care and a community of people who genuinely like her, and get to see her abusers have comeuppance, even—it feels good. You can’t help but root for her and feel a bit tight-chested when she finally, finally gets to be her full self and start the path to healing.
Even with the reveal that she does, indeed, have supernatural powers, the story is never truly about that. It’s about Miyo learning to be herself and discovering that her love and kindness are her greatest weapons, whether she’s destroying supernatural Grotesqueries or working through the immense trauma her family dealt her.
This is, ultimately, a really, really good story, and it’s such a joy that we’ve got a smorgasbord of media to consume after the anime. I can’t imagine a world without this well-wrought tale, and I’m so glad I gave it a try. I have zero regrets.
Recommended by: Caitlin, Vrai
What’s it about? In an alternate Edo era, a plague has reduced men to a quarter of Japan’s population. The fallout leads to a seismic shift in the country’s highly gendered social roles, from labor and sexual service to politics. And as a display of her power, the shogun is said to keep 3,000 beautiful men in a walled garden called the Ooku.
Content warnings: Sexual assault (offscreen), forced pregnancy, miscarriage, mass death (starvation, plague), sexual slavery, animal death (offscreen), brief nudity, forced gender presentation
“Gendercide” stories are tricky, often slipping into essentialism in how the world mechanics or by implying some mystical inherent traits linked to chromosomes. Ooku dodges a lot of that by virtue of its focus on gender as a social construct. The story begins, like Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, with an extra-long premiere that establishes the early reign of the last Tokugawa shogun, and her unease with the ossified systems of the Ooku; from there, the rest of the series jumps back in time to the establishment of the first female shogun and the policy decisions that echoed down through the generations.
Putting women in power, Ooku contends, means little if they continue to uphold the same structural violence of their male predecessors. The writing walks a delicate line, both using male characters who’ve been robbed of agency and subjected to sexual violence as a way to talk about underdiscussed or normalized elements of stories involving sexual violence toward women and painting its often-cruel female cast as products of violent oppression themselves. It’s a tale about how history is told, and who is allowed in it; and a heartbreaking story about hurt people continuing that cycle of violence, sometimes struggling toward a moment of tenderness in a system that wounds them even as they feel obligated to uphold it.
While the series has a stellar voice cast and a rock-solid story from the legendary Yoshinaga Fumi, it’s let down somewhat by animation that rarely rises above functional. Most of the time it’s not terribly distracting, as this is a “people in rooms talking about politics” sort of story and it largely replicates Yoshinaga’s panel work, but there’s one pivotal kissing scene that looks outright repellant when it should be moving and desperate. It’s far from enough to dampen my recommendation, but it’s another disappointment in a long line of them for josei adaptations. This is also only a partial adaptation (maybe five volumes of a complete 19), but because the story is a multi-generational epic it leaves off at a point that feels like a satisfying narrative arc. While you should keep the heavy content warnings in mind, I would call this can’t-miss for anyone—regardless of what version you choose—who crave stories about how women’s lives are narrativized.
Recommended by: Alex, Chiaki, Cy, Dee, Lizzie
What’s it about? A lover of vending machines is one day ironically killed as he tries to save a vending machine from flying off a truck on a winding mountain pass. He awakens alone in a fantasy land as a vending machine. Teaming up with Lammis and dubbed Boxxo, a vending machine embarks on a dungeon adventure!
Content warnings: light fanservice
If you’d have told me I’d end my summer weeping over a vending machine, I’d have said well yeah: it’s me, Cy Catwell, vending machine lover. Such was the case with Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon, the true dark horse of this way-too-hot summer season.
Much like Chiaki, I love vending machines: I love their utilitarian designs, love their treats nestled oh-so-gently inside, love their variety and practicality. Never would I have thought I’d be adding the phrase “I love the humanity of this specific vending machine” to the list, but here we are with me having to hold back on just how much I love the earnest goofiness of this anime.
Episode 1 was, and is, admittedly a bit rough because the joke is a guy tried to save a vending machine, got killed for his obviously ineffective, completely foolish effort, and reincarnated as…a vending machine. But as I watched, the show grew to be about the bond of a girl and her magic item: Lammis and Boxxo, the best duo since Shaggy and Scooby Doo. They play off each other so well and by the end of this, have a bond that goes beyond romance and solidifies them as family.
While that might seem goofy, Reborn as a Vending Machine leans into it the same way it leans into its plot: by embracing any possible cringe and being as genuine as it can be every step of the way. Whether Boxxo is transforming into an oxygen machine or defeating a floor boss with dry ice, there’s always something to find. And while the finale feels a bit compressed, I still ended the series curled up on the couch in tears, so glad I got to go on this adventure with a humble vending machine.
So don’t let the goofy, uwu-eyed vending machine on the splash image fool you: Reborn as a Vending Machine has hidden depths between its goofy antics, demonstrating that found family really can be anything, including a group of adventurers, some doggos that eat a lot of food, a researcher, a really strong girl in daisy duke’s, and yes, a vending machine that shows them a better way to live through just existing and dishing out the most mundane things in extraordinary ways.
Recommended by: Chiaki
What’s it about? Sariphi was raised to be a human sacrifice for the King of Beasts, Leonhart and accepted her fate as she had no one who cared about her. However, Leonhart isn’t the monster he is rumored to be; and is intrigued that Sariphi isn’t afraid of him so he decides to make her his Queen much to the shock of his subjects.
Content warnings/considerations: sexual assault, human sacrifice, slavery, violence, mild gore, racism as an ongoing theme
Sacrificial Princess takes the Beauty and the Beast theme and is a genuine treat once you get past the scandalous premise, which falls away relatively quickly as Sariphi cements herself as not only Leonhart’s fiancé but acting queen of the Beast Kingdom.
While Sacrificial Princess is by no means profound in its story or particularly unique in its conventions, it is an engaging two cour series that wraps up well and tells a heartwarming story of not only Sariphi and Leonhart, but of all the characters they come into contact with—including, yes, Anubis, the mean chancellor who seems to harbor unending disdain for the human girl. That greater world of characters helps cement Sacrificial Princess as an engaging story, even if the premise is simple enough.
Sariphi’s unending compassion and Leonhart’s deep commitment to making things better for his kingdom are central to the story. Most of the conflicts arise from conflicting agendas that seek to thwart them in some way. In the beginning, it’s simply factions within the kingdom who feel Sariphi, a human, should not stand beside their king. Later, the story shifts to question not only Sariphi, but the King himself. However, the series offers compelling villains every step of the way and even the most unrepentant and irredeemable villains are given a chance to pull at your heartstrings to delineate why they had turned out the way they did.
Racism plays a central role throughout the series, but it’s far deeper than the humans vs beasts conflict initially set up in the show’s outset. As the series progresses, it’s revealed all is not well within the Beast Kingdom and prejudice is a problem not just for anti-human sentiments, but among the various races of beasts themselves. Thus, the final arc endeavors to fight back at that prejudice, and it does so with the continued compassion and might which propelled Sariphi and Leonhart from the start.
There’s always a concern when writing a story about fictionalized racism, especially when the ending could become a “let’s all hold hands” kind of moment to defeat centuries or decades of institutionalized violence, but Sacrificial Princess seems grounded in its attempt to take it on. Prejudices are hard to break and some characters never change, and the show is ready to admit that. It knows that, in pursuit of a better society, nothing will ever turn out perfect, but people can at least recognize the good possible in others and in themselves to take a step in the right direction.
Combine that with heartwarming and memorable characters, a variety of cute animal people designs, and you have a pretty good show worth checking out.
Recommended by: Caitlin, Dee, Lizzie, Toni
Content warnings: ethnic cleansing, eugenics, dismemberment, sexual assault, suicidal ideation, human experimentation, ableism
Undead Murder Farce has more than lived up to the hype that surrounded it. It’s unsurprising how visually stylish it is, given its credentials in Hatakeyama Mamoru–it’s not only the action scenes that ooze style, but every line of dialogue is exquisitely staged. What is perhaps more surprising is how effortlessly queer the show is–the main trio is canonically a queer polycule, with Aya at the center and Tsugaru and Shizuku as her lovers. Their banter, which often gives a bratty sub-discipline dom dynamic, keeps the show delightful through even some of the darkest moments. The show also is extremely funny, in a quite dry, British way. (Fitting for its primary locale, London.)
The show also engages, particularly towards the end, with heavier topics like ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and separatist vs assimilationist mindsets towards fighting marginalization, to mixed results. The show’s depiction of eugenics is arguably quite subtle, explicitly drawing parallels between the desire to create a super-human with the discarding of the disabled and showing how those who are harmed by both eugenicist practices can come together to fight back. However, the show also seems to stumble a bit around the ethics of violence, and the ultimate result of the main trio’s investigation doesn’t seem to point much of the way towards true justice. The show is interested neither in easy answers about how to transform an entire culture of eugenics nor in having morally progressive protagonists, and your feelings about the show may hinge on whether you are okay with accepting that level of ambiguity.
The show’s engagement with queerness is at times also fraught, as best seen in Shizuku and Carmilla, whose tortured bodice-ripper dynamic is played to much campy effect. While this can still be deeply uncomfortable to watch, Aya and Shizuku do much to balance out Carmilla’s potential to reinforce predatory lesbian stereotypes–this is especially true given the revelation that they fuck, which ensures we don’t have some hypersexualized predator vs virginal Class S dichotomy going on. As Shizuku emerges in the investigations as the member of the trio most empathetic with the people around her, many of the most beautiful tableaux and most genuinely warm moments in this often icy series come from her (often sapphic) moments of connection with them.
Overall, Undead Murder Farce is a surprisingly thoughtful show that I had a fantastic time with, although I can definitely see some people wanting more moral clarity finding it frustrating. I hope at the very least its foregrounding of the sexualized male nipple rubs off on the anime scene as a whole. Free the nipple!