AniTAY’s Summer 2021 Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Guide (feat. Some Other Sequels)

Arcane
Arcane
Jun 28 · 11 min read
Header created by Stanlick

Following the truly insane inundation of sequels for the last two seasons, Summer 2021 is actually looking decently light for continuing shows. Maybe it’s that all the COVID delays are finally out the door, maybe it’s just the vacuum created by so, so many shows airing in the first half of this year, but I think a less-packed season is in everybody’s best interest.

We’ve got five (six, technically, we bent the rules because someone wanted to rant about Million Lives) on the docket, but let’s be real. Only one of them matters. You know why we’re here.

Beastars Season 2
Presented by
TGRIP
Studio: Studio Orange
Genre: Furry High School Drama
Why You Should Catch Up:
Over the past few years, CG anime has stimulated many opinions, but general fan consensus is that Studio Orange’s work is among the medium’s best. From their 2017 breakthrough hit Land of the Lustrous to their collaboration with studio Bones on the upcoming Godzilla Singular Point, the specialty studio has established their name with quality work. Now their first sequel is imminent (and nearly out on Netflix parole) with season 2 of Beastars, which has also generated its fair share of wide-ranging takes. Some viewers were weirded out, others hailed it as “Zootopia turned up to 11” or “BNA done right”. Yours truly went so far as to christen it as the final great anime of the 2010s, and my own personal choice for best show of 2019. Suffice to say, season 2 has a lot to live up to.

Season 2 should be relatively straightforward, since season 1’s conclusion left plenty of intriguing areas ripe for exploration, from Legoshi and Haru’s budding relationship, Louis’s ascension to running a gang of carnivores, and further thematic explorations of weird yet fitting parallels for racism, class, sexuality, and young people learning how the world works and their place in it. And of course, there remains the big question about the first episode’s inciting incident: who killed the alpaca Tem? Plenty of us have waited long for season 2 to drop, but the wait is nearly over. Here’s to the weird yet wonderful, bloody yet touching, serious yet hilarious return of the best CG anime airing today.

Time to Catch Up + What You Need to Watch:

  • Beastars Season 1 (12 episodes, about 4.5 hours approx.)

Where to Catch Up: The first season of Beastars is available on Netflix (with an excellent dub)

IDOLISH 7: THIRD BEAT!
Presented By
AoiYamamoto
Studio: TROYCA
The best idol anime around is back yet again. Yes, I said what I said.
Why You Should Catch Up:
The characters are fun and awesome, the show itself has a nice mixture of comedy and drama (though not as hilariously campy as Uta-No-Prince-Sama), and most importantly, the music doesn’t suck! Instead of glamorizing it like in other series, it’s closer to how the music business functions in Japan (only without the seedier aspects.) . To summarize the first two seasons: a production company seeks members to form an idol unit. Seven individuals, ranging from high schoolers to one in their early twenties, navigate the highs and lows of idol stardom. They’re managed by their production company president’s daughter. The first season introduced us to the main IDOLISH 7 group, along with their friends/rivals TRIGGER. Last season introduced audiences to Re;Vale, the elders of the idol world.; It also offered a closer look at some of the IDOLISH7 boys. This season looks to introduce yet more idols and a potential breakup of TRIGGER. There’s also potential for the new boy band/idols to become this season’s villains, from glimpses in the first episode of the new characters interacting with the main cast.

Once again, animation duties are handled by TROYCA (Aldnoah.Zero), and character designs by legendary shoujo queen Arina Tanemura (Full Moon wo Sagashite). Maybe if this is a hit in the West, the (5-year-strong, successful) Japanese mobile game will finally be picked up for Western audiences? (You listening, Crunchyroll? Even Uta Pri’s game got licensed!). Even though this franchise isn’t as popular as Love Live!, I love the music more, and some of it is even available on iTunes.

I know idols are a well-worn anime trope, but this show is so much more than ‘Cute Boys Singing Pop’. It’s also a good approximation of how the entertainment industry functions in Japan, albeit presented in a way only anime can achieve. As a longtime fan, I can’t wait to see what the new group brings to the table — it’s already been hinted that one of the three major groups is on the verge of breaking up. IDOLISH 7 is also very funny at times. Yes, there are pretty boys, and it’s not aimed at shonen lovers, but shoujo, idol and bishonen fans are the series’ target audience.

Time to Catch Up + What You Need to Watch

  • IDOLISH 7 (17 episodes, ~6.25 hrs)
  • IDOLISH 7 Second Beat! (15 episodes, ~5.5 hrs)

Where to Catch Up: Crunchyroll! The first episode is even already up!

I’m Standing on a Million Lives Season 2
Presented by
Stínolez
Studio: Maho Film
Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Why You Shouldn’t Catch Up:
If you’re wondering how I’m Standing on a Million Lives distinguishes itself from the vast number of other identikit isekai anime, then I must disappoint you. It’s merely another bland title full of tired clichés and overused tropes.

Main character (Yusuke Yotsuya) is annoying and unsympathetic from the very first moment. His nihilistic worldview is so edgy it threatens to cut the viewer. I’m certain his hatred towards Tokyo and all its people is never explained, but I might have missed a clue or two as this show is so boring. I paid only half-attention from the second half of the first episode onwards. Despite his selfish traits, Yusuke seems to respect those who work hard, and is willing to help them, though his methods are not always moral or ethical. He abuses the hell out of the world’s rules, where unless everybody from the party dies, one can always resurrect and continue.

If the show was only about him, it would be almost instantaneously droppable, but (most of) the female cast just about makes this show barely watchable. I’m purposely excluding Yuka Tokitate, due to her obnoxious, constant complaining. Conversely, Iu Shindo, despite her typical gyaru appearance, talent for sports and popular girl vibe, is kind and understanding. Kusue Hakozaki completes the roster. As a sickly kid with a weak constitution, getting assigned to a warrior class wasn’t exactly the greatest match made in heaven. She lacks physical abilities and struggles to lift her sword, but she compensates through effort and courage.

If you don’t count Yusuke’s poor luck in drawing his first two jobs (farmer and chef), this is run-of-the-mill isekai, where the cast gets transported to another world to complete a quest within a certain timeframe. After successful completion they get transferred back, only to repeat with another member, for another quest. Even visually this show is below average, so if you want to waste approximately 5 hours of your time, feel free to catch up and watch the first season.

Time To Catch Up + What You Need to Watch:

  • I’m Standing on a Million Lives (12 episodes, 5 hours approx.)

Where to Catch Up: Crunchyroll

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica Side Story Season 2
Presented by
: Doctorkev
Studio: Shaft
Genres: Dark Magical Girl, Gacha Game Adaptation, Irrelevant Soulless Abomination That Spits on the Grave of its Illustrious Progenitor
Why You Should (Not) Catch Up:
Gen “The Butcher” Urobuchi’s landmark dark magical girl masterpiece Madoka Magica is commonly regarded as one of the best anime of the 2010s. Single-handedly responsible for the subsequent proliferation of grim and violent copycats (Magical Girl Raising Project, Magical Girl Site, Yuki Yuna is a Hero), it subverted yet reinforced the most important tropes of the formulaic magical girl genre. None of its derivatives approach the heightened drama and sense of all-encompassing despair conjured by Madoka’s expertly-constructed and flawlessly-paced original series.

Surprisingly, it took nine years for Aniplex to raid its own goldmine and attempt to out-exploit its imitators. When Magia Record was announced, Madoka fans rejoiced — finally, a sequel to 2013’s controversial Rebellion movie (itself a sequel to the 2011 show). Such elation turned to disillusionment once it became clear that this was the worst timeline — an adaptation of a non-canon gacha game with no relation to the previous film. Perhaps the harvesting of such despair was in keeping with Madoka’s central concepts? No — as with everything tainted by gacha’s shining avarice, Aniplex smelled filthy, sweaty weeb-money.

Initially focusing on pink-haired Madoka-lite Iroha Tamaki, Magia Record’s cast slowly grew to absurd gacha-infected proportions. With attempts to squeeze in roles for the mobile game’s enormous cast, the intimate focus and existential dread of the original show was sacrificed, and out of the blood-drenched pit arose… boredom, inanity and disappointment. Fatally tied to a slow-moving, wheel-spinning gacha game plot, very little happened. Apart from some admittedly cool action sequences, Magia Record had next to no substance.

The US version of the gacha game was cancelled not long after the first season of its anime concluded airing. I’d hoped that by playing it I’d find out where the story was heading, but unfortunately I found the game’s achingly slow story presentation to be so wooden and boring that I gave up the game long before its cancellation. I hope that the pace and stakes ramp up in this adaptation of the conclusion of the game’s first arc, but without a drastic change in direction (and pacing), I fear this will be another disappointment. Thank Madokami-sama that Urobuchi is returning soon with the true sequel to Rebellion. You should wait for that and not bother wasting your time with this pale imitation.

Time to Catch Up + What You Need to Watch:

  • Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica (2011 TV anime) — 12 episodes — 5 hours approx.
  • Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica Side Story Season 1 (2020 TV anime) — 13 episodes — 5.5 hours approx.
  • Optional: Puella Magi Madoka☆Magica The Movie: Rebellion (2013) — 2 hours approx.

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll (subbed), Funimation (dubbed)

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S
Presented by
: Doctorkev
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Fantasy, comedy, slice-of-life, yuri romance, mild ecchi
Why You Should Catch Up:
Do you like Maids? Do you like Dragons? Even if you’re indifferent to either, the bizarre but humorous Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a winning combination of these niche interests. The titular Miss Kobayashi is a stoic, introverted office worker/computer programmer who, due to reasons, ends up cohabiting with the smitten Chaos Dragon Tohru, who becomes her live-in-maid (while disguised as a human). Hilarity and weirdness ensues, because if one dragon appears, so eventually will her even stranger dragon friends…

Based on a rather… uh… ecchi manga, the anime tones down the more off-colour content so that it’s almost family-friendly. While Tohru is very clearly romantically interested in Kobayashi, Kobayashi herself is far more reserved and reacts with annoyance to Tohru’s attempts to show (at times misguided) affection. Over the course of the first season, Kobayashi demonstrates (in her own modest way) just how much Tohru means to her, without the show plunging into overt relationship drama.

The show chronicles the bizarre hijinks triggered by Tohru’s often clumsy and chaotic influence on Kobayashi’s average, previously uneventful modern Japanese life. When the childlike dragon Kanna arrives, the three main characters occupy the roles of a stereotypical nuclear family, with Kobayashi as main breadwinner, Tohru as housekeeper, and Kanna as their child. A particular highlight is the school sports day episode, with an emotional climax that should bring a tear to the eye of anyone harbouring any even remotely parental instincts.

There are several (unfortunate) running jokes that make me extremely uncomfortable, but aren’t quite enough to ruin the show for me. Tohru frequently attempts to sneak chunks of her tail meat into Kobayashi’s food as a horrifyingly intimate dragon love offering, triggering hair-raising consent issues. Kanna’s relationship with a fellow female classmate really toes the line of what’s appropriate regarding young children and romantic content, as does every inappropriate scene of busty dragon Luco smothering a young boy with her enormous chest. Perhaps some of this is cultural, but I get the feeling that even in Japan, this content pushes against boundaries of mainstream acceptability. For me, it means I won’t share it with my youngest child, which is a shame because otherwise this is a delightful show.

It’s surprising we’re even getting a second season after the Kyoto Animation arson attack back in July 2019, as the original series director Yasuhiro Takemoto was one of the 36 staff members who died. I’m glad that the studio has started to recover from this tragedy and hope that with this they can honour the memory of their departed colleagues.

Time to Catch Up + What You Need to Watch:

  • Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 1 (2017) — 13 episodes — 5 hours approx.
  • Optional: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S Short Animation Series: Mini Dragon (12 episodes) — 30 mins approx.

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll (subbed), Funimation (subbed, dubbed)

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X
Presented by
Reikaze
Studio: Silver Link
Genres: Otome, Isekai, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Slice of Life
Why You Should Watch:
While My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom may look like another generic otome isekai, Villainess has a unique secret weapon in Katrina Claes. Katrina, who’s been affectionately nicknamed “Bakarina” by the community, is a dumb as rocks bi queen and a pure joy to watch. Her stupid, crazy antics, shining optimism, and her relationships with everyone in the show are so endearing, even though she consists entirely of the densest material in the universe. So many stories depict a perfect protagonist without flaws, or try to pigeonhole them as mere archetypes. Perfection in characters is bland. Character flaws add charm and relatability. Villainess is a show that understands the importance of Katrina’s flawed character, and runs with it in a really fun, endearing way.

Time to Catch Up + What you Need to Watch:

  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Season 1: 12 Episodes (about 5 hours approx.)

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll (Subbed and Dubbed)

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Arcane

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Arcane

He/Him. Anime critic, electronics guru, gay trash.

AniTAY-Official

A Community Blog dedicated to East Asian Culture