The Fall 2021 Anime Season Impressions Part 1

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We have been on record talking about how the 2021 summer season was full of a ton of mediocre titles. It was a result of an anime industry that’s going to be burning itself out and not doing what most companies and industries should be doing. By that, I mean properly paying their animators, not taking on so many projects at once, and choosing original and adaptive work that aren’t pointless like Koikimo, Ex-Arm, Redo of a Healer, The Detective is Already Dead, Platinum End, and Itaden Deities. Fall 2021 seems like an apology for that season and the overall year, but I still stand that the anime industry needs to change its tune and actually do what would actually be helpful, and not constantly burn out animators due to bad working conditions. Luckily, a ton of anime this season was really good! Much of it was bad as well, but that’s more than Summer 2021 that had a smaller list of good or even great anime. Now then, let’s get started!

Slice of Life

Blue Period (Netflix) 

CW: a lot of Transphobic comments and commentary

This huge disappointment of an anime is based on the manga by Tsubasa Yamaguchi. The show is directed by Koji Masunari and Katsuya Asano, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by Seven Arcs. I was honestly excited to see it at first, because who wouldn’t want to see an art school anime? That sounds like it could lead to some great moments and story arcs. Sadly, what drags this entire show down is our lead in question. He really shouldn’t be the one we focus on, since he has the least interesting drive and story arc of the characters in the show. Every time Yuka would come on screen, I would want her there since our lead keeps deadnaming her multiple times. Why should we follow this unlikable passively mean spirited jerk when we could be following everyone else. The show also has some shoddy production values. It never looks consistently great, and even when the whimsy kicks in, the flat characters look awkward and inconsistent. Storywise, so many characters are introduced and you don’t get a lot of time to gel or vibe with anyone who isn’t our two leads, and one of our leads is terrible. It’s like the story justifies the lead’s transphobic comments about Yuka every step of the way, and that’s terrible. If this was given to KyoAni, Yuka would have been the lead and it would have been a much better experience. It could also be that Blue Period isn’t that great of a manga, since the writer of this anime, Reiko Yoshida, has worked on one of the best anime this season with The Heike Story, and Yoshida has worked with Naoko Yamada heavily in the past. I don’t know how many art-based anime are out there, but I feel like you could find much better shows about painting and drawing than Blue Period

Taishou Maiden Fantasy (Funimation) 

Based on the manga by Sana Kiriorka, this anime adaptation is directed by Jun Hatori, written by Hiroki Fukuda, and produced by SynergySP. What started with a slightly questionable relationship with a 17-year-old male lead and a girl who you only find out is 14 in episode three, turns out to be this low-key charming slice-of-life romance anime that really does invest time into our two leads bonding. The setting is as depressing as it could be with the male lead being banished from his family due to an injury and the death of his mother. The female lead is offered to our lead as a wife to pay off her family’s debt, and with all the combining elements, it finds a way to balance out the drama and the love these two characters have for one another. It has a few uneven moments where the drama overtakes the love, but I found myself loving the series as the episodes went on. Just keep in mind that you have to look at all of this through a historical lens. Maybe it could have been better told and they could have told us the lead’s age in the first episode instead of episode three, but if you are looking for a, so far, sweet and caring anime, you should give this one a watch. 

My Senpai is Annoying (Funimation) 

Based on the manga by Shiro Manta, this delightful anime is directed by Ryota Itoh, written by Yoshimi Narita, and produced by Doga Kobo. It was surprisingly refreshing to see not one, but a few anime this season have adult characters. My Senpai is Annoying, while having a few clunky elements here and there, really hit a spot I was missing with a lot of anime. Not only is it well animated, sweet, and funny, but it was nice to see an anime about adults doing adult things. No teen dramas, no power fantasies, no edgelord power wish fulfillment, and you get the idea. It’s all about the connection between our short leading lady and a giant wall of a man as they venture through working in their office and dealing with their cohorts. The overall execution of laughs, laid-back atmosphere, story, and relatable character dynamics make it one of the more compellingly watchable anime of the season. 

Komi Can’t Communicate (Netflix)

Based on the massively popular manga by Tomohito Oda, the anime adaptation is directed by Ayumu Watanabe and Kazuki Kawagoe, written by Deko Akao (aka Hitomi Mieno), and produced by OLM. I knew this property was super popular, and when you have a rockstar of a team and studio working on translating it, then you have a real deal gem of a slice-of-life comedy anime that so far has been one of the best anime, not only for this season, but of 2021. It might have a very straight forward gimmick, but how they take advantage of Komi’s severe case of social anxiety is clever! So far, she is never the punchline and is more of the instigator of the joke, while everyone reacting to her ends up as the punchline. It makes her a constantly interesting character, and the cast of shenanigan-filled students only add on and reinforce the strong comedy chops. Like I said though, when the show is able to slow down and let the characters have their moment to shine, it is just as well executed as the jokes that came before and after it. It’s easily an anime I will gladly keep up with, and as long as this team is working on it at all times, well, you can count on me to be back every episode. 


Platinum End (Crunchyroll/Funimation) 

Content warning: A child dies, and a whole lot of the setting is based on people who were committing suicide. Oh, and the villain lusts after middle school girls and is a highschooler. 

Based on the manga by the duo behind Death Note, Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, this anime adaptation is directed by Hideya Takahashi and Kazuchika Kise, written by Shin’ichi Inozume, and produced by Signal MD. So, it’s a death battle anime with a twist using angels and the goal is to become God. What could possibly go wrong with this one?

 I mean, it’s the Death Note duo, so everything can go wrong. Not only is it not visually interesting, the animation quality is lackluster, the dialogue is terribly written, the pacing is all over the place, and for a show that’s all about contestants who were chosen due to almost committing suicide, the show is really not wanting to be careful about treading those waters. It’s needlessly edgy, the action is mediocre, the characters that are the focus are the wrong ones, and the villain was the most interesting character until they revealed a creepy plot point in episode five. Platinum End is an extremely slapdash anime that seems to really want to be done with itself. Maybe if the anime industry wasn’t such a wreck, it could have been in better hands, but due to how, from my research, this manga wasn’t popular, why the heck did they adapt it? It truly became one of the worst anime of the season and worst of the year for me. 

The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window (Crunchyroll)

CW: A lot of metaphorical assault, abusive language, gore, and lack of consent. 

Based on the manga by Tomoko Yamashita, this anime adaptation is directed by Daiji Iwanaga and Yoshitaka Yasuda, written by Ayumi Sekine, and produced by Zero-G. There is a market for boy love series, and this one sounds interesting with the supernatural thriller element mixed in with the romance angle. What has and does bother me is the power dynamic between our two male leads. One of them is extremely possessive, abusive, and does a lot of metaphorical assault to the other lead. It wants to come off as titillating, but when one side of the dynamic is not enjoying it every single time, and is treated like garbage by everyone around him, it’s an issue. Even without the problematic dynamic, the show’s story is not interesting. You would think there would be more focus on the mystery killer, but that’s not really the case from the three episodes I watched. It’s more interested in getting to the “titillating” elements than anything else. It’s not particularly animated well either, with it mostly being just on the borderline of “okay”. As the show went on, it started to drop some interesting lore and story beats, but after a while, I realized I wasn’t hooked or invested either way. It’s at least trying to be compelling, but it’s not winning me over. 

Visual Prison (Funimation) 

Content Warning: slight incest between two brothers

This original anime was directed by Takeshi Furuta and Tomoya Tanaka, written by Yukie Sugawara, and produced by A-1 Pictures. I was really rooting for this anime to be this year’s Hypnosis Mic. All it needed to be was fun dorky vampire rock, and just enough story and world-building to make it decent to sit through, but sadly that’s not what we get. While the music and visuals are overall great, something is missing with this show’s premise. 

It has an unbalanced way of pacing out the story, characters, and music. For an anime that’s all about the music, the music seems like the least important part. The writing is also extremely drab and doesn’t warrant the fun nature this premise promises. I don’t care about all of the characters or their drama and backstories. It delivers on the fanservice of hot male characters being hot male characters and touching each other, but even that unravels when there is metaphorical incest involved. There isn’t much else that is going to gravitate you to it. If you like very vapid anime trying to push idols and rock music, you will probably like this show, but I just can’t seem to really want to watch future episodes. Maybe I will see how it ends, but I can’t see this one finding a long-lasting audience. 

Mieruko Chan (Funimation) 

Content Warning: Lots of high school girls undressed and or sexualized in this show

Based on the manga by Tomoki Izumi, this adaptation is directed by Yuki Ogawa and Takahiro Majima, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by Passione. This is one of the most frustrating anime I have ever watched this year. On one hand, you have a very creative and interesting horror-comedy about a girl who can see the most diesel-grade nightmare fuel, and has to avoid acknowledging their existence in order to live a normal life. At the three-episode mark, they introduce some very interesting story beats and world-building elements with how ghosts are connected to certain people and how they portray a person’s true nature. These story beat introductions continue throughout the currently released episodes. It just sucks though that getting to those good parts means sitting through so much gross horny stuff that it almost becomes not worth the trouble. I heard that it gets less horny as time goes on, but I wish the show was more about the horror comedy elements instead of the ecchi fanservice. If that stuff doesn’t bother you, then that’s fine! It’s just my impressions of the first six episodes. 

Pride of Orange (Funimation) 

This anime is based on the mixed media project of the same name by EXNOA. The anime is directed by Takebumi Anzai, written by Touko Machida, and produced by C2C. This is absolutely an odd anime when you first look at it. It’s a sports anime and possibly the first hockey anime (not to be confused with the first hockey manga because there are a few), and it’s not just a sports anime, but also has elements of idol anime and cute girls doing cute things. I know some people have criticized this show for not getting the point fast enough and that it’s just another cute girls doing cute things show, but you know what? I honestly like that the show is trying to be its own thing. The story-telling execution maybe could have been a bit tighter with certain story beats, but I like that they are taking their time a little more with getting the team together, the drama that unfolds, and everyone learning how to play and be good at hockey. It is consistently endearing to watch. I don’t honestly care if there are better versions of this show or this type of story as long as the one I am watching is doing something that is keeping my investment time justified. It’s a gorgeously animated show that almost made me think if this was actually made by KyoAni, but it was not. With a solid cast of cute anime girls wanting to learn the extremely fast and sometimes violent world of hockey, there will be days where I can drop everything I’m doing and watch it! 

Selection Project (Funimation) 

This is yet another anime based on a multimedia project. It’s interesting what kind of projects end up in every season of anime. Anyway, this is based on the manga by Koji Azuma. In the directing chair is Daisuke Hiramaki, Yuya Takahashi is piloting the writer’s chair, and the animation is being handled by Doga Kobo. The first thing that you will notice is how gorgeous this show is. I know idol anime are popular, and I shouldn’t be shocked, but considering how mediocre some idol anime look and are, this one has some stellar visual production values, and a more film-like way of executing shots and atmosphere. The other solid hook is that while we will be getting to know our future idols, the competition itself will be putting them all against one another in an American Idol or The Voice way of competition. Even with the likable anime girls and our lead’s weak heart story that is not new in idol anime, the tone doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to dip into more comedy beats, and the dialogue flows more naturally and casually between our characters bouncing off of one another. It’s an idol anime that has gotten me hooked on what is going to happen to these girls and that hasn’t happened since last year with If My Favorite Pop Idol Makes it to The Budokan, I Would Die. That’s saying something due to how many idol anime come out every season. It feels good to say that. 

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut (Funimation) 

This distinct sci-fi drama is based on the light novels and manga by Keisuke Makino. The anime adaptation is directed by Akitoshi Yokoyama, written by Keisuki Makino, and produced by Arvo Animation. When the first episode was playing, I was not really hooked on this huge alternative history setting. At least to me, it was pointless to make an entirely different alternate and fictional world. Once I got over that personal hurdle, when they put away the alternate world and history books, the training of a vampire to go into space and her reactions to other humans led this to be one of the most fascinating anime of the season. The training sequences were easily the highlight, and the moments where she and her handler get to talk and shoot the breeze with the world around them and the discrimination against vampires were always interesting. While the training and the risk of the government meddling behind the scenes due to this being the space race era of history is there, no one would care if the characters didn’t match the rest of the show and this ends up becoming one of the best anime of the season. 

The Heike Story (Funimation) 

Adapted from the stories of The Tale of the Heike, this anime is directed by Naoko Yamada, written by Reiko Yoshida, and produced by Science Saru. I never knew I wanted a period drama with a slight supernatural angle and the pacing of a slice-of-life story. What an incredible experience. You would think it gets confusing at points with how many characters are introduced and how time flies in this show, but it was very easy to follow. It’s because the main focus on the characters and the internal family politics are compelling and they keep you watching the show. It’s never too bogged down by its own history and world and focuses on the characters. I shouldn’t be shocked since Yamada is a top-tier director. It’s easily one of the standout anime of the year, one of the best of the season, and one of my favorites of the season. If you have Funimation, please do watch this show.  

The Vampire Dies in No Time (Funimation) 

The shockingly funny horror-comedy anime is based on the manga by Itaru Bonnoki. Now, on the anime side of things, the show is directed by Hiroshi Kojina, written by Yukie Sugawara, and produced by Studio MADHOUSE. Instead of an epic action adventure series starring a cool confident vampire slayer taking down a powerful vampire lord, the two characters are complete dorks! The supposed vampire lord is actually not all that powerful and turns to sand the moment you spook him accidentally. Our vampire hunter is short-tempered, impatient, has an intense fear of celery, and is stuck with making new books of his exploits or else his publicist will lock him in an iron maiden until he does. This concoction results in a ton of laughs with premises that would work well with these two and running with them. You would think the sand element of the vampiric lead would be extremely tiring extremely fast, but they have somehow found a way to make it work and gave me a laugh every time he turned into sand. The side characters are also a colorful cast of vampire hunters, higher-ups, a human/vampire hybrid, and everything in-between that makes this one of the most amusing series of the season and of the year. In a year full of really solid comedies with great hooks, that had me by episode one. Also, John is the best pet in the world who is adorable. I love him, and will hurt anyone that dares say John isn’t cute or cuddly. 

Sakugan (Crunchyroll) 

Directed and written by Jun’ichi Wada and produced by Satelight, this anime is based on the novel by Nekotaro Inui, which also had a manga adaptation by Keisuki Sato. While the name might be similar to the term Sakuga, which defines when anime goes all out with its animation, what we have is a wildly entertaining sci-fi journey following a father and daughter duo as they explore an underground world to find a legendary location. It has some of the best production values around, and it reminds me of the vibes and experiences that anime from the mid to late 90s had that were joyful and not nihilistic and terrible from the late 80s/early 90s OVA boom. It’s also one of the few shows that knows how to balance out its CGI and 2D animation, and one doesn’t get neglected over the other. Both styles of animation mix well with one another, and the writing and world-building is also on par with the series. I went over my three episode limit because I was enjoying the show that much with its characters and action. It’s easily one of the stand out series of the Fall 2021 line-up.

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