(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)
As we head into the late stage of studios doubling down on either something that can be cheap and made on a production line, or throwing money at ideas and properties that everyone knows about, the importance of supporting and rooting for original properties is becoming even more of a thing. At this point, an original film is something that isn’t based on a pre-existing property. You would think that so many have gone and seen the big franchise anime films and having them become hits would lead to more people going to see original films that get brought over, but they don’t. It comes off as cinema-goers and anime fans are too afraid to be more adventurous with film-watching and supporting non-franchise-based films. Listen, it’s okay to like them, but if you genuinely want more anime to be seen and released in theaters, then you need to be able to support the ones that are not tied down to something familiar. How boring would filmgoing be if it was just franchise fodder? It’s a shame so many viewers are not that adventurous or are all that supportive of original properties, because many fantastic films get released every year. Sure, it’s a good idea for the distributors to also make sure as many people can see them as possible and not just limit them to major cities, but filmgoers share the responsibility as well. Don’t just go and see whatever big franchise film gets put into theaters. You need to go and support films like Goodbye Don Glees as well.
Directed and written by Atsuko Ishizuka, this film is animated by Studio Madhouse. We follow the tale of three friends. They are Roma Kamogawa, dubbed by Adam McArthur, Hokuto Mitarai, dubbed by Nick Wolfhard, and Shizuku Sakuma, dubbed by Jonathan Leon. The three of them live in a small rural town in the countryside, and hope for lives outside of the city. Unfortunately, when a fire breaks out in the forest near the town where they live, they are for some reason blamed for it, and the trio of heroes go on a journey in the countryside to find a way to prove their innocence.
So, you know how the metaphorical and literal igniting point of this film is the fire that the three are blamed for? Well, that’s the throughline of the entire story, but it’s not really about the fire if that makes sense. The film only really focuses on our main three characters, which results in a cast of side characters who really don’t get much development outside of one character that is connected to Roma’s personal arc in the story. Instead, the film doubles down on focusing on the three boys, and the real story is a coming-of-age story about what the three find important in their lives. What is the treasure that drives them and their goals in life? What is their ultimate adventure and the endgame of what they want to do? It’s a shockingly complex story, and the three leads work well off of one another. It finds a lot of time during its 90 mins to let the three relax and show off their friendship or reignite said friendship during some incredible moments. The three of them really do act like realistic teenagers and what they define as what it means to become more adult. It’s hard or really rare to find a film that has more grounded takes on teenagers, and it’s refreshing to see it here. I like that we have had a couple of films this year where the teens actually act like real teens or preteens as in the case of Turning Red. It shouldn’t be shocking due to this being the same director as A Place Further Than the Universe, but it’s nice to see other filmmakers from time to time show that they know how to write teenagers. It will even hit you with one emotional gut punch after another in the third act, so be ready.
For the animation, Studio Madhouse did their usual fantastic work with some expressive and detailed character animations and incredible environmental backgrounds. Due to the location, it results in a very nature-driven world where every kind of green can be seen that meshes into a world full of nature growing around the land itself, and at certain points, man-made paths, and vehicles covered in grass. There are some scenes that are truly and utterly awe-inspiring. It’s a shame this film only got a Fathom Event release, because this film looks incredible, and you know the big screens would have made this film pop. It’s always the same problem with Fathom Events, because there are so few screenings. The designs of the humans were handled by Takahiro Yoshimatsu, who worked on titles such as Desert Punk, Overlord, and A Place Further Than the Universe. He brings some very appealing looks for our three leads, and each of them stands out in their own ways from Roma’s touches of red in his clothes, the fabulous hair of Hokuto, and Shizuku’s iconic jacket. As usual, it’s a gorgeous film and it results in some of 2022’s most awe-inspiring moments. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is good, as we have a cast that includes some fairly well-known anime voice actors and one celebrity voice with Wolfhard. The overall cast includes Adam McArthur, Nick Wolfhard, Jonathan Leon, Victoria Grace, Alan Lee, and Stephanie Sheh. The music by Yoshiaki Fujisawa offers a combination of tunes that ranges from streams of ethereal nature to some quirky tunes to use for jokes and some emotional “gut punch” tunes that play when you least expect them. It feels different from the composer’s other work that includes Estab Life, Engage Kiss, Love Live Superstar!, and Isekai Cheat Magician.
Goodbye Don Glees is a surprisingly complex and endearing coming-of-age film about friendship between three boys that discover not only a way to save their lives, but also what drives their personal goals in life and their friendship. They set out to find that treasure that they hold near and dear to them. It’s a fantastic film that if you can find a way to see it on the big screen, do so. Otherwise, pick it up on Blu-ray to watch his charming story of friendship and life. Now then, we will now go on a journey via an ocean-bound apartment building via Drifting Home.
(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)
So, here we are, a new chaotic year, and I am now going to start doing these seasonal anime impressions more regularly. Maybe I’ll even do a best to worst ranking of them all after the season is over! So, the same rules that we used in the previous listing, will be used here. These will only cover the new anime of this season. This won’t cover returning series from last year. No reboots unless there is something extremely noteworthy about them, like Higurashi: When They CryNew or Yashahime. Now then, let’s get started!
Actually, before we start, a couple of these anime will have content warnings before my short 3+ episode impression of them, so please be wary about that, and if you are disturbed by any of these warnings, then skip them and move to the next one. Viewer discretion is advised.
Redo of Healer (HiDive, VRV)
Content Warning:Rape, abuse, racism, violence, sexual violence, and homophobia
Based on the novel and manga by Ryo Tsukiyo, this adaptation is directed by Takuya Asaoka, written by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu, and is produced by TNK. Well, to the shock of no one, this is the worst anime of the season. On a moral level, it’s a repugnant revenge fantasy that has rape, homophobia, racism, and every red flag you can think of for an anime. It’s made for edgelords that don’t see anything wrong with the main character thinking rape is a proper revenge tactic. It is an anime with a time travel gimmick, but since the writing and storytelling are not good enough to distract me from the other minefield that is time travel, all I’m stuck wondering is why didn’t the main character, instead of doing all of this awful stuff, not just go back in time to a point where his abusers weren’t alive, or go back in time and kill them before they were born. Heck, if you are going to become a power fantasy since you can pull up the cheat sheet of powers and abilities, why not just create a past where you didn’t become the healer, and just live on your merry way? Instead of doing something more straightforward, this unlikable dumpster fire goes out of his way to “get back” at the abusers in a way that still makes him an abuser. Even if Sentai Filmworks wasn’t showing a censored version of this anime where they cut/edited out the sex scenes, the show isn’t all that great to look at. The fantasy world designs have all been done before and better, the characters look generic, and the music doesn’t stand out. It looks “better” than the worst animated show of the season, Ex Arm, but at best, Redo of Healer looks only okay. Also, for everyone crying about how people need to watch the uncut version, well, no they don’t. All the uncut version does is show the sex scenes, and since a lot of this show is full of assault, abuse, and rape, no one needs to watch them. Plus, if you wanted to watch porn or in this case, hentai, then go watch it! There are continent-sized amounts of hentai on the internet that you don’t have to justify watching. Seriously, the defenders of this show have been nothing but trolls who think this show is the best thing ever and go after anyone who doesn’t like it. When the novel and manga don’t have releases in the west due to a real lack of market value and no real audience, then maybe it was a bad idea to make an anime you are going to have to show censored, and then use an entirely different site or wait for uncut blu-rays to watch in full. The ratings for this show are dropping, the viewership is dropping as of writing this editorial, and it’s no wonder. Even if there was something good to say about the show, like the actors for Flare and Bullet are doing great with such garbage material, it wouldn’t matter. The exhausting nihilistic and toxic world, writing, story, and characters ruin anything it has going for it. For some reason, if you like this show, fine. Keeping liking it, but if you go after and harass anyone who doesn’t like it, because they don’t like it, then you are not worth anyone’s time. Redo of Healer is easily the worst anime of the season.
Ex Arm (Crunchyroll, VRV)
Considered dead on arrival, this anime adaptation is directed by Yoshikatsu Kimura, written by Tommy Morton, produced by Visual Flight, and is based on the manga by HiRock and was illustrated by Shinya Komi. What do you get when you hire a director who has no animation experience, doesn’t bother to learn how animation is produced, works with a studio that hasn’t made anime before, relies too heavily on motion capture, and then has the giant brass cajones to think this was going to be the next big science fiction hit? Well, you get Ex Arm. While Redo of Healer is more morally repugnant, it is, at the very least, competently made on a production side of things. You knew everyone there was going to go in and adapt every hateful aspect of that anime. Ex Arm on the other hand went headfirst into a brick wall with no helmet on, thinking that it was going to be the next hot stuff. Well, it did become big and popular for one reason, its incredibly terrible CGI animation. This might be the worst CGI animation I have ever seen in anime. Lifeless, emotionless, stiff, and it’s 100% amateur hour from top to bottom. You can even tell when this show uses ugly white light circles to cover up that the people working on this show did not know how to do anything but animate CGI models like they were bashing action figures together. It’s an embarrassing front all around, and even if it had the proper animation team behind it, the writing falls flat, the characters are forgettable, the designs aren’t interesting, and due to the awful reliance on motion capture technology, the action sucks. What’s worse is that Ex Arm cuts out aspects of the story for no reason. So, yeah, have fun watching an incomplete story. If Redo of Healer wasn’t the worst anime overall, then Ex Arm would be the worst anime of the 2021 season. At the very least, Ex Arm is a perfect candidate for bad movie nights, and that’s all it does right.
Scar on the Praeter (Funimation)
Content Warning: some suggestions of incest.
Our first original anime of the season is directed by Shingo Suzuki and produced by GoHands. We have yet another anime that is filled to the brim with pretty boys looking edgy and cool, and maybe a touch too much in world jargon mumbo jumbo to make you feel invested. Anytime I have tried to talk to someone about this show, I don’t remember anything outside of the gaudy 3D visuals, and while the main characters look better than in Handshakers (a previous anime from the studio), they are still overly designed and they almost blend into one another. The action is disjointed and janky with fights that feel very unsatisfying. It’s a show that easily goes through one ear and out the other, and that alone is shockingly bad. I don’t know who at GoHands keeps getting funding for these original projects, but just because you are an original anime, doesn’t mean you get off with a free pass because it’s rare to find original anime not based on something. It also has a light homosexual subtext, which is fine, until the first episode introduces the main character’s younger adopted brother who may or may not want to make love to him. Seems like you can’t get a GoHands anime without some creepy incest or sexual context. If it was more memorable, I would probably put it in the mediocre category, but since it just feels like a nothing show with a confusing world, weak animation, disappointing fight sequences, and entirely forgettable characters, it’s in the worst spot.
Content Warning: Creepy perverted actions, mentions of rape, softcore porn, voyeurism, masturbation, and suggestions that the lead does watch illegal porn.
This anime from the newly formed studio, Studio Bind, is based on the light novels by Rifujin Na Magonote. It was then adapted into a manga by the same individual. This anime adaptation is directed and written by Manabu Okamoto, with gorgeous music by Yoshiaki Fujisawa, and character designer Kazutaka Sugiyama. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful anime on the list. it’s in the top five. It looks incredible from the designs, the colors, the fluid animation, the consistent character models, and it’s a visually stunning overall package in the presentation department. This sucks for one reason, and one reason only, because the main character is intolerable and unlikable. I have heard that there is a long-term play with the lead’s arc, but when the story is about a 30-something loser who gets kicked out from his home after running out of money, dies when he’s struck by a truck, and is reincarnated with all of his memories into the mind of a kid, it’s a really insufferable and sometimes extremely uncomfortable part to sit through. The lead does get better and does learn to change his perverse ways, but when the anime dabbles a little too much into it, it’s a tall order to tell people that it gets good later on. So far, it is getting better, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that this anime put everything into making a stupidly stunning show, but then have a wildly problematic lead character whose whole redemption arc is going to be a slow crawl to being a better and somewhat less perverted individual. Luckily, it does seem like it is going to get better, but I won’t blame anyone for wanting to drop out after that first and second episode. Even with every great emotional moment, every bit of gorgeous animation, and every great song, a crummy lead (with some very problematic issues that people online are too easily ready to wave aside, which, you know, don’t do that) can still drag your series down. It doesn’t help that the 4th episode revealed the dad to have had an affair, and back in his training days, assaulted someone. So, yeah, for once so far, Rudy was not the biggest scumbucket in the show for one episode. Still, I’m hoping for the best, because this is still a decently impressive first anime from a brand new studio.
The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter (Crunchyroll, VRV)
Content Warning: sexual sequences.
Based on the novels, light novels, and manga by Meguru Seto, this anime adaptation is directed by Kenta Onishi, written by Kenta Ihara, and produced by Okuruto Noboru. This power-fantasy harem comedy is in the worst category for multiple reasons. Its RPG elements are reliant on the main character getting pleasurable satisfaction from the women he interacts with. The fantasy world itself looks like a more mediocre Konosuba, and the animation is just okay, which is a problem if you want some softcore fanservice. The side characters are constantly unlikable, and for a fanservice show, it doesn’t go far enough to be fully titillating. It kind of knows what type of show it is so it’s not trying to be deeper than it is, but by the 3rd episode, I’m already seeing way more “likable” characters than our male lead, and this entire time, I was just thinking about how I would rather be watching Konosuba or Princess Connect: Redive. It has some funny jokes, but they are too few and far between in this somewhat mean-spirited world where being a noble has its own hierarchy system, and that just doesn’t make sense to me. They also try to add in some drama, and it simply doesn’t work. I’m too distracted by how horny this entire show is, and you want to introduce drama? No thanks! The stakes feel artificial due to the lead’s over-powered abilities that they just don’t rely on 24-7 because, well, they don’t give a good reason. Oh, and it does yet another sibling character wanting to have lewd fun with the lead when they are brother and sister. I’m getting so tired of anime and their flipping incest fetishes. Stop doing this! Oh, and it also has weak RPG game elements despite it not being an isekai. Boring!
This is an original anime from director Shigeru Ueda, written by Keiichiro Ochi, and produced by Hoods Entertainment. It’s another idol anime (big shock), but since it’s coming out during a season with more than just one anime being about idols, it’s going to be tough to stand out, and even tougher to be good. Well, sadly, I didn’t like Gekidol. It has such a weird dark turn with the base of the plot, and then it turns into every yuri trash anime that you can think of with the same batch of characters, dialogue, and weak fanservice. The dark setting doesn’t get brought up a whole lot, since you know, everyone forgets when a huge chunk of your city is just, you know, gone. It’s starting to pick up with it focusing on some of the other characters, but it’s a little too late for that, and to just not 100% explain where the cyborg girl came from, and how losing a huge chunk of your city didn’t do more damage to everything else makes for a mediocre experience. It’s a show that’s aimed in too many directions, and outside of some decent animation, there isn’t much else that stands out about this show.
I★Chu: Halfway Through the Idol (Crunchyroll or CR through VRV)
Hey, look, another idol anime. It’s time to buckle up because there are a few of them this season. This anime is based on the rhythm game by Liber Entertainment Inc. It’s directed by Hitoshi Nanba, written by Yoshimi Narita, and produced by Lay-Duce and Twin Engine. What do you get when you have 15+ lead characters? Too many! It was sometimes hard to remember their names, their designs, their quirks, and outside of some of them having some kind of hobby, they are cardboard cutout stereotypical male anime leads. It becomes such a problem that some of them seem to bleed into other characters, and end up sharing the same personality traits. It’s all too much for an anime that’s also really boring to watch. Outside of the principal of the school in which they are all enrolled wearing a giant bear costume and riding around on a segway, and a third episode introduction to a cross-dressing idol, this show doesn’t offer much that other idol shows aren’t offering in spades. It’s even too harmless to be offensive or have something wildly problematic about it. In some way, that’s the charm of this series. It’s too harmless to be bad or enraging. It’s at best and at worst, forgettable. Maybe you will get more out of it than me, but you can only throw so many pretty boys my way and expect me to be invested.
Hortensia Saga (Funimation)
Based on the smartphone game by Sega, directed by Yasuto Nishikata, written by Rintarou Ikeda, and produced by JC Staff, this new fantasy anime sure doesn’t do a lot to make itself stand out. It was also bad timing for the first episode of this show to air during the US capitol being raided by terrorists because the anime starts with an evil red-colored army storming a blue-colored castle with a mission to kill all of the royalty in there. Anyway, I’ll say that I least like this anime more than that awful King’s Raid anime from last year. Hortensia, at the very least, looks better and while looking clunky at points, has better action. It looks cleaner, the music is better, but outside of that, there isn’t much else there. It has some decent characters, and the third episode introduces the most likable one of the bunch so far. All this anime does is makes me want to go and play Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Because when I can get that kind of experience from a video game, why would I invest my time and energy into this anime that is failing to grab me? Anyway, Hortensia Saga is just more forgettable fantasy anime fluff with slightly average animation and a generic plot and world.
Vlad Love (YouTube)
Content Warning: blood, sexual suggestiveness.
An original anime that’s written and directed by anime legend Mamoru Oshii? That should be incredible. It’s also co-directed by Junji Nishimura and produced by Drive. At first, I was finding it hard to gel with the premise, being a bit too chaotic with its jokes. It slings jokes at you with such intensity that it becomes too much. It’s a yuri romantic comedy about a high school girl who has a fetish for donating blood, who gets involved with a vampire. It’s a bit much due to how high octane it is. It makes more sense when you realize that Oshii worked on the anime classic Urusei Yatsura and Patlabor, but it doesn’t have the cohesive world and characters. It’s also just trashy with its fanservice. However, it has chaotic energy that not many shows have, and its visual style, while using a few too many comic-book-style split screens, at least has a style to call its own. The rest of the series will debut on YouTube this month, so we will have to see what happens with everything past episode 1.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (Funimation)
Based on the light novel and manga by Yuki Yaku, directed by Shinsuke Yanagi, written by Fumihiko Shimo, and produced by Project No.9, this is a self-help harem comedy. Most of the time so far has been spent making sure our main male hero is improving upon his social skills and how he is seen on the inside and outside, and I respect what the anime is going for with how they are approaching the subject matter. Granted, some of it feels very superficial and Queer Eye-ish, but I guess sometimes, you need to be pushed into the deep end to hit the ground running. I think my only real issue is that the gaming lingo is awkward as it never sounds natural. It sounds better than the male lead in the first episode when we get to episode 3, but still. I’m also worried about how the other girls in this show are going to react to the lead, Tomozaki, and at least from the three episodes I watched, they are all going to be different and want to be friends or more with him for different reasons. I don’t know, I just don’t feel strongly about this title when the much better Horimiya is doing everything better and it looks better as well. I’m cautiously curious as to where Bottom Tier Character is going, but who knows if I will want to stick through with the entire 12 episodes.
Idoly Pride (Funimation)
Content Warning: Death
This anime is based on a multimedia Idol project by CyberAgent, which has a manga written by Hiroki Haruse. The anime is directed by Yu Kinome, written by Tatsuya Takahashi, Yasuhiro Nakanishi, and produced by Lerche and CAAnimation. Well, even though I wouldn’t say I like any of the Idol anime this season, at least Idoly Pride had an interesting hook to it. Sadly, I wish I could say that the Idol stuff was just as good as the base hook. On one hand, I love the tragic romance aspect of our lead character, who was goaded into being the love interest’s producer while she became an Idol. It has a real tragic twist, but an interesting supernatural element, as she comes back as a ghost to make sure her producer does well at his job. There is a lot of gold that could be mined from this premise, and there are story elements that could work very well to make this a great story. Too bad that’s not the focus. It’s about our male lead putting together another Idol group and having them be big hits. That means we are instead going to focus on 10 girls who so far have really basic personality traits, and their designs are just different enough that you can tell them apart. The Idol stuff is fine, but I just hate how it’s having to hustle to be the main focus when there is a much better tragic romance/drama on the show’s lap. I guess that’s what happens when you are just another Idol project. Still, some interesting elements are being put into the formula, like the younger sister of the now-deceased female lead is a part of this new group, and so on. Still, I can’t say if I’m committed enough to sit through the Idol beats just to get to the small more interesting drama beats. I still prefer it to the other Idol new animes this season.
Skate Leading Stars (Funimation)
Directed by Goro Taniguchi, produced by J.C. Staff, written by Noboru Kimura, and based on the manga by Chiaki Nagaoka, this anime came into the winter season with a hurdle to skate over due to it being constantly compared to the one other famous ice-skating anime. So, on its own merits, I do think Skate Leading Stars does stand on its own feet. It’s more interested in competitive skating and team coordination among its multitude of attractive anime boys. It is one of those anime that introduces maybe too many characters, as this anime is supposedly going to have 15+ main characters, and while they are different enough, are still too many to focus on so far for a satisfying story. I’ll say this, they are at least different enough and so far, don’t share personality traits like I★Chu: Halfway Through the Idol. Otherwise, it’s a solid sports anime with some decent animation and likable characters.
So I’m a Spider, So What? (Crunchyroll, VRV)
Based on the light novels and novels by Okina Baba, also based on the manga written by Gratin Tori, this anime adaptation is directed by Shin Itagaki, written by Okina Baba and Yuichiro Momose, and is produced by Millepensee. Out of all of the fantasy/isekai anime of the season, So I’m a Spider had the most creative premise as a lonely gamer girl, along with her classmates being swept up into another world. The catch is, our main character reincarnated into a spider, whereas her classmates had better luck as humans and so on. I was excited to see an isekai fantasy anime that was from the perspective of the animal world. It’s not like the anime doesn’t tease that aspect, since half of the episodes so far are about our spider hero making her way through surviving this harsh world as a monster you usually see in the first dungeon of a video game. While its CGI is noticeable, the models used for our spider hero is very expressive, and once you realize that this was the same studio and director behind that notoriously awful Berserk adaptation from a few years ago, then that’s impressive to see how much better this show is overall in visuals and storytelling. However, my biggest complaint is that it’s taking a bit too long to set everything up. I keep preferring the spider side of the story compared to the more generic humans side, but the show sometimes seems to lean more on progressing the humans more than our spider hero. It’s frustrating because the show also adds in generic RPG stat elements, and I just don’t care about that stuff. I don’t get why fantasy anime can’t just be fantasy anime without the RPG elements. Sometimes they are used well, but rarely have I seen an anime use them well. They keep teasing these other spider characters, and yet we still haven’t seen them, and honestly, this show might be the one I have the shortest patience with in terms of the shows I like this season. I love the premise so much, but it keeps struggling with who to focus on, and I just want to see the spider’s shenanigans. It also doesn’t help that the main lead is loud with her constant self-narration. Still, I’m wanting to see where the story goes and the action is great. I just can see this one easily sliding into my most disappointing anime of 2021 if it’s not careful.
Dr. Ramune: Mysterious Disease Specialist (Crunchyroll, VRV)
Content Warning:some episodes may have suggestively lewd visuals
Based on the manga written by Aho Toro, this anime adaptation is directed by Hideaki Oba, written by Ayumu Hisao, and produced by Platinum Vision. I know this isn’t anyone’s favorite due to the chunky art style and clashing tones for a horror/comedy anime, but I find myself enjoying this mix of comedy and horror. What gets me is how the weird diseases the characters are encountering are mixed with some form of social commentary. The stories are so far creative and fun to watch. By episode 3 they have introduced some other members of the main cast, and while one of the characters has a trope I hate seeing in anime, I do love the other new male lead they introduce. It’s an anime that’s easy to get into, and it’s creative enough for me to probably commit through the entire season.
2.43 Highschool Boys Volleyball (Funimation)
Content Warning: Suggestions/mentions of suicide
Based on the light novel by Yukako Kabei, the manga by Aiji Yamakawa, this sports drama is directed by Yasuhiro Kimura, written by Yosuke Kuroda, and produced by David Production. While you may wonder if you are getting a similar experience as the smash hit Haikyuu, well, you are not. This is a more grounded male-centric sports drama about our two leads Yuni Kuroba and Kimichika Haijima. It’s full of gay tension between them as well. The show is more about the drive to play, and the philosophy behind the sport in general. It’s also really melodramatic and it’s a bit of a rough sit for the first episode due to how unlikable Haijima is. That’s not even counting the dramatic baggage that Haijima has with him when the show begins. It’s gotten better now by the third episode, but your mileage may vary with how you will invest your time with this show’s story. Still, it’s a good sports drama, and if you need an alternative Haikyuu, then go watch this show! Oh, and the opening song is a real banger!
Otherside Picnic (Funimation)
Based on the novel and manga by Iori Miyazawa, directed by Takuya Sato, and produced by Liden Films and Felix Film, this anime is also based on Roadside Picnic, an eerie female-driven horror drama anime that has our two leads Sorao and Toriko exploring a place known as the Otherside, where dilapidated buildings are conquered by nature, and creatures from supernatural tales reside. It’s a show that captures a real intimacy and offbeat friendship between the two women with some pretty nice-looking animation, quiet humorous moments, and an unsettling atmosphere once they cross over to this new world. Some of its use of CGI is clunky, but it looks better than Ex-Arm by continents. It’s not just a supernatural anime either, as the first three episodes dive into the mindset of both of the leads and the characters with whom they interact. I was a little confused about a few things in the first episode, but I’m having a fantastic time going through this journey with our heroes. Oh, and if you want a horror anime this season, this is the one to watch. Just don’t watch it late at night as I did.
Back Arrow (Funimation)
We have ourselves an original giant mech anime this season, which I am super happy about! It’s directed by Goro Taniguchi, written by Kazuki Nakashima, and is produced by Studio VOLN. It stands out from other giant mech shows with the evil imperialist empire having a more Chinese-dynasty look, whereas other villages and towns so far in this show have used more wild west fashion choices. I can’t tell if this will be any more substantial than just being a fun giant mech anime, but I’m fine with that, honestly. We don’t need every giant robot anime to be so melodramatic and bogged down by philosophical arguments. Sometimes, you just want to see giant robots and feel like a kid watching Toonami again. I do like the overall cast, except for the main side characters so far. Something about how they are constantly willing to ditch the main hero on a dime makes them a bit hard to grasp as to whether I should hate them or like them. Still, I enjoy this show so far. I might not have it in my top 10 by the end of 2021, but I think it’s one of the better shows of Winter 2021.
Wonder Egg Priority (Funimation)
Content Warning: symbolic and suggestive suicide
This is an original anime produced by CloverWorks, directed by Shin Wakabayashi, and written by Shinji Nojima. With a season of anime that has had shows like Redo of Healer, which tries to be dark and mature, but falls flat, Wonder Egg Priority handles its subject matter with creativity and respect. With a constant theme of losing someone to suicide, it needs to be handled well, and this show is handling it with a very careful hand. It’s a drama with characters who are trying to bring someone close to them back to life, but who knows if that will happen or exactly what the outcome is. It’s balanced out with some incredible action, vibrant monster designs, and some of the best animation of the season. By episode 3, the action starts to kick in, and it reminds me of something Studio Trigger or Science Saru would make. The designs of the “bosses” in the dreamworlds in which the action takes place are always exciting to see with how symbolic/Silent Hill-ish they can be. You also feel for the characters as the main three girls we have seen so far are all interesting and work well off of one another. I want this to stick the landing because we don’t often get original anime that are not based on pre-existing properties. You can also go through this anime with a comb and pick apart its symbolic elements that are worth looking into more. It’s easily one of my favorite shows of the season.
Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moves to a Starter Town? (Funimation)
Content Warning:some suggestive elements from time to time.
Long title aside, this anime based on the light novel and manga by Toshio Sato, is directed by Migmi and produced by Liden Films. It’s a fantasy (not isekai) comedy that gives us a humorous main hero, who would be like if Saitama from One Punch Man didn’t know how stupidly strong he was. You see, the lead in this anime thinks he’s weak even though the village he is from is next to the final dungeon. So while he is considered weak while moving to a small kingdom to train and become a knight, everyone else is horrified of his powers and how humble and unaware he is of his strength. This alone has brought me three-plus episodes of laughter and fantastic character dynamics with some of the best comedy this anime season. The characters are all enjoyable, and the story by the end of the first episode kicks into gear and while it might not be a super unique fantasy tale, the premise and characters alone make up for it. You don’t have to be 100% unique. Sometimes, you just need to be executed well.
Kemono Jihen (Funimation)
Based on the manga by Sho Aimoto, this anime adaptation is directed by Masaya Fujimori, written by Noboru Kimura, and is produced by Ajia-do Animation Works. While I do think Dr. Ramune is a gem among the great anime of the season, Kemono Jihen is that gem polished to perfection. What a delightful horror/action/mystery anime with some rather engaging twists and turns. It might look like a typical shonen battle anime, but it has a lot more substance than most shows in these genres. Yes, it has young kids with powers, but with how the story has tackled them so far, it’s more mystery and horror than pure action. The encounters with the supernatural creatures so far also have some cool subtext and commentary about them. The opening song is just a fantastic banger. It’s an overall strong show with a strong cast, and I highly recommend it.
Based on the manga by Hero, this anime is directed by Masashi Ishihama, written by Takao Yoshioka, with music composed by Masaru Yokoyama, and is produced by CloverWorks. This teen drama is probably my personal favorite anime of the season. I love every anime in this category, but Horimiya hit me hard with its themes about how we present ourselves when we are by ourselves and when we are in front of people. It’s a clever premise on how we sometimes wear masks to hide from everyone else. It’s an anime that understands having to deal with emotions, relationships, and other individuals in high school, and I find the romance between our two leads adorable and fleshed out. It’s an extremely healthy relationship as well. What’s even better than this show’s amazing visuals, baller opening, and incredible writing, it shows how mature it all feels. While it might be about teens, this show treats them like adults. It’s also heartwarming, funny, and it’s easily going to be in my top five anime of the year so far. I just hope we don’t get another Sing Yesterday For Me.
Sk8 the Infinity (Funimation)
This original anime is directed by Hiroko Utsumi, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and is produced by Studio Bones. There are a ton of reasons why this show is climbing up the charts as one of the best from this season. For one, you have the director of the beloved Free! and Banana Fish adaptations with Hiroko Utsumi. Second, you have an anime that is 100% stylized and one of a kind in a sea of anime that’s released this season. Third, it’s a sports anime with endearing characters, each having distinct and identifiable personalities, and you then give it to Bones to animate. Seriously, this is easily one of the best looking shows of the season. Not only that, but the skating sequences are a lot of fun to watch, the characters are interesting, and it has the right balance of both action and story-telling to make it all work. I am so happy that we are seeing some original anime knock it out of the park this season.
Heaven’s Design Team (Crunchyroll or CR through VRV)
Based on the manga by Hebi-Zou and Tsuta Suzuki, this anime adaptation is directed by Soichi Masui, written by Michiko Yokote, and produced by Asashi Production, this is the Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle of the season. Not only is it educational with little moments where they talk about the real-life animals that they create, but the entire show is also all about them making said animals and the process of getting the tasks from God as to what to make. I love how the premise is that God got too busy making the earth and outsourced it to a freelance team of angels to handle the creation of animals. It’s constantly funny, creative, and there is a lot of heart and great chemistry between the individuals who are a part of this team. It helps that there are about three or so segments each episode, and due to the different challenges thrown at them so far, the show hasn’t gotten boring. It’s the right kind of show to watch when you need a good laugh, and it’s pretty much the best comedy anime of the new anime of this season.
With that, we are my impressions of the new anime of the Winter 2021 season!
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