Doctorkev’s Summer 2021 Anime Postmortem Part 1 — Sequels/Continuing Shows
Time to mourn the end of summer — with cold nights in Scotland already drawing in, bright glorious sunshine seems but a hazy memory. Perhaps reliving this past season’s glory will help us cling to that ephemeral warmth for a precious moment more.
While summer’s offerings initially appeared to comprise a lesser selection than winter and spring’s overstuffed seasons, I was pleasantly surprised by some shows I was inspired to watch by my AniTAY colleagues. Though mild burnout due to overindulgence from 2021’s earlier anime glut meant I couldn’t face filling my life with everything that looked potentially entertaining.
So what did I watch? For someone supposedly burnt out, 18 shows is an impressive/unwise total. Next season I’ll give up anime altogether yet still somehow end up watching 25 shows or something. Sigh. Today we’ll discuss sequels or continuing shows, and then next time I’ll cover all the shiny new things (that I’m rushing to complete before embarking on the new season).
Tokyo Revengers: CRUNCHYROLL (24 episodes)
What started as a fun time travel/teenage gang mashup became a heartbreakingly tragic triumph by the end of the first 12-episode cour. Has this second half maintained that emotional tension? Not… really…
Don’t get me wrong — this is still very enjoyable, but the fairly thin story seems stretched to breaking point to fill these further 12 episodes. There isn’t enough substance here to fill even 8, and I think the producers knew it. Hence the 5-minute long pre-credit recaps and interminable shots of characters standing around gawping when they should be doing something.
Protagonist Takemichi remains as dumb as a box of rocks. The central conceit of this show is that he’s an adult inhabiting his teenage self’s body. Unfortunately, adult Takemichi is a total loser and can barely function even as a teenager despite his extra decade of life experience. This can make it really hard to root for someone so intellectually challenged he continually fails to affect any simple changes that could improve his future. Instead the plot relies on coincidence and the poorly-explained motivations of other characters.
Seriously, these characters don’t act like human teenagers rather than empty plot puppets who do cool or violent or inexplicable things because the author demands it, not because they have any kind of coherent internal thought processes or desires or goals. It’s very frustrating.
Even the fight scenes, which should be the most entertaining focus, are hamstrung by poor production, repetition, terrible editing and just really stupid story choices. It seems all these delinquents have cast-iron skull prosthetics, considering how many of them survive what should be fatal blows to the head (except where the plot demands they die). It’s hard to suspend disbelief when the show keeps hammering the viewer with a sawn-off drainpipe filled by super-saiyan-powered teenage absurdity.
Best Girl Hinata Tachibana is almost totally ignored, reduced merely to plot device/fridged female/main character motivator. I really missed her bubbly personality and incongruously pink hair. More focus is (finally) placed on boo-hiss bad guy Kisaki Tetta, and I very much approve of this machiavellian sociopath. Even without time-travel abilities, he continues to run rings around his impossibly dumb nemesis Takemichi. And that cliffhanger was a fantastic way to round off the series. I sincerely hope a second season is greenlit soon, as despite its flaws it remains very compelling. I’ve had to downgrade my expectations though — this is not one of those “clever” time travel shows, and very likely never will be. Stick brain in neutral and enjoy the carnage.
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun Season 2: CRUNCHYROLL (21 episodes)
I can’t believe I love this kids’ school comedy so much, but it really is one of the most delightful anime I’ve ever watched. Iruma is such a wholesome protagonist, but he’s never irritating, smug or self-righteous. 21 episodes was not enough! I’m so glad that season 3 has been announced — yet more time to spend with Iruma’s bizarre collection of misfit school-friends and weirdo teachers. Have I mentioned before how much I love red-haired towering amazon demon woman Ameri Azazel? I have? Let me say it again — I’d watch a show that was only about her alone. Looks like Iruma’s heading to becoming the prophesied demon king, with Ameri as his intimidating yet squishy-hearted queen.
That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime, Season 2 Part 2: CRUNCHYROLL (24 episodes)
I was pretty harsh on this show last time, but to be fair it had mutated into Committee Meeting — The Anime, so I think it had it coming. The final few episodes were a step up from previous, once the other demon lords were introduced. Main character Rimuru seems to vacillate between otherworldly competence and slapstick idiocy though, so I do often find him difficult to take seriously.
With the conclusion to the current plotline throwing in some fairly spectacular action beatdowns and some effective emotional catharsis as Rimuru got to face the main architect of his recent trauma, I’ve decided I likely will stick with this show for the long term. I’m still not convinced by the author’s ability to properly structure a story, but some little plot twists (especially concerning nutty dragon girl/demon lord Milim) were enough to get my attention and confirm that the author had at least a vague idea what he was doing. I am beginning to lose track of who all the characters are though, especially those that show up in cameo about 20 episodes after they last appeared.
Looks like we’re not getting a season 3 next — the continuation will be a movie instead. Hmmm. I wonder, if following Demon Slayer’s Mugen Train success, will this become a trend? I have no problem with this, as long as it is easily available in the West and the story arc it adapts is properly suited to a movie’s structure and duration. None of season 2 of Slime would have functioned at all well as a movie, for example. Can you imagine That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime: Tempest City Budget Meeting: The Movie? Shudder.
To Your Eternity: CRUNCHYROLL (20 episodes)
20 episodes is a weird length for an anime series (see also this season: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, which will be discussed next time.) It feels like Eternity already ended ages ago, and when I last wrote about it, only two episodes remained. The penultimate episode gave us deranged creepy pervert antagonist lady Hayase, which is not something I needed in my life. Thankfully protagonist orb-dude Fushi noped the hell away from that mess and gave us a really heartfelt, bittersweet final episode that detailed the tragedy and horror of dementia in a loved one. I’ve rarely seen anime touch such an emotional, upsetting subject yet do it justice with sensitivity and dignity. Despite the overall poor second half of the show (at least compared to the stellar first cour), this final episode sent Fushi out on a bittersweet high. Not so much a definitive ending, but a good stopping point to consider the journey so far and drop hints for the future. I’d certainly watch a second season of this.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2: CRUNCHYROLL (12 episodes)
I love this show so much. Despite the sometimes off-colour humour and weird relationships. Despite Ilulu’s ginormous levitating breasts. Despite busty adult Lucoa’s weird fixation with little boy Shouta. Despite little girl Riko’s uncomfortably orgasmic glee every time she interacts with little dragon girl Kanna.
Every character gets their chance to shine this season, as we move focus away from Kobayashi and Tohru’s central relationship to examine the others that orbit around them. Thankfully not all these interactions and relationships are creepy! I particularly liked the extra context for Elma and Tohru’s longstanding rivalry/friendship and Elma’s (failed) attempt to improve working conditions at hers and Kobayashi’s job.
Dragon Maid doesn’t just mine its character’s faults for humour (though it does this a lot), it produces a surprising amount of pathos too. In particular, in the final episode, Kobayashi realises how much Tohru has progressed in her friendships with the wider cast, meaning she’s no longer as emotionally codependent on Kobayashi herself. This realisation is bittersweet as Kobayashi realises she’s perhaps a little jealous, and also insecure — she’s come to value the chaotic dragon maid’s presence in her life and doesn’t want Tohru to outgrow or leave her.
Although Kobayashi isn’t the focus of most episodes this season, she’s usually there on the periphery. Staid and conservative to a fault, she tends to let life pass her by, concerned mostly with quietly getting on with her job and then flaking out at home. She has no particular ambitions, and she’s not particularly social. She doesn’t display strong emotion (unless drunk) and struggles to recognise let alone communicate her feelings and desires. Kobayashi is at risk of seeming to take Tohru for granted — after all, despite Tohru’s frequent and loud declarations of affection for Kobayashi, she rarely reciprocates in any overt way.
Although Kobayashi’s retentiveness may be irritating, it is also very relatable. Many of us do just drift through life, heads down, getting on quietly with things, not rocking the boat partly through laziness but also through fear of change. Tohru crashed into Kobayashi’s world and suddenly her life is full of colourful weirdos and bizarre occurrences. Kobayashi’s world looks like a lot of fun, and I wonder if now she is recognising just how much she has been blessed. Even if she might never overtly vocalise it.
It’s a special kind of comedy that explores such deep character work, while effortlessly mixing light humour and wacky antics. This was probably my favourite show of the whole season, and I desperately hope that the inimitable Kyoto Animation Co. produce more.
Higurashi When They Cry: Sotsu: FUNIMATION (15 episodes)
Oh boy. Where do we start with this? I’m a relative newcomer to the When They Cry franchise, having only watched the original 2006 Higurashi anime last year to contribute to a retrospective collaborative review. I enjoyed it a great deal, so launched myself into this shiny new version with expectant vigour. Note I have never read the source visual novels, nor the loosely linked Umineko or Ciconia novels. Nor have I experienced any of the multitudinous manga and game spin-offs that bulk out the franchise’s terrifyingly lengthy wiki articles.
Initially marketed as a remake, Higurashi: Gou was eventually revealed to be a sequel that revised the original’s upbeat ending, dragging poor little blue-haired poppet Rika back into her neverending Groundhog Day/Friday the 13th mashup recursive living nightmare, forced to reincarnate into June 1983 and witness her friends be horribly murdered again and again and again. Fun!
Unfortunately, Gou (and follow-up series Sotsu) were shoehorned into the original show’s “Question Arc” and “Answer Arc” format, which by the end of this 39-episode aggregate became a slog. Gou tipped its hand early to unmask golden-haired gremlin-child Satoko as its primary villain, her childish possessiveness towards her best friend Rika mutating into something altogether more destructive and hateful. Before Sotsu began, we already knew that Satoko was the hidden force behind the carnage, and waiting 13 full episodes for Rika to learn this was like pulling teeth.
Gou already repeated the original show’s main story beats and structure, merely adding apparent non-sequitur conclusions where random violent shit would happen for no obvious reason. Sotsu repeated these stories again but from a marginally different viewpoint, filling in details the viewer could have easily worked out themselves. Little in Sotsu justified its existence. In fact you could remove the final two episodes of Sotsu and jam them onto the the end of Gou and you’d have a perfectly reasonable 26-episode show. Although containing some admittedly cool yet disturbing imagery, Sotsu was mostly filler — a show treading water, waiting for its plot to begin.
Despite these shortcomings, Sotsu was never less than entertaining, if only because I was eager for it to stop wasting my time and get to the point. That it took until 87% of its runtime had passed to do so seems criminal in retrospect. And the ending, while batshit insane in places, and kind of fun, ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied. Everything is wrapped up almost too neatly (though there are some nods to the ongoing wider franchise, but I’m not nearly qualified enough to comment on these). An anime full of murderous munchkins and otherworldly witches shouldn’t be so thin in substance. I don’t regret watching it, but I doubt I’ll ever return for a rewatch, knowing that this time, the mystery box is empty.
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My Next Life as a Villainess: All Roads Lead to Doom X: CRUNCHYROLL (12 episodes)
An exercise in narrative redundancy, Villainess season 2 does not need to exist, though it does not make the world any worse for doing so. Season 1 ended perfectly well, with a resolution to the plot’s central conflict. Season 2 just sort of… keeps going. There’s very little in the way of plot progression, central character Katarina shrugs off character development like she’s made of Teflon, and very similar plots get recycled over and over again. Seriously, how many kidnapping plots does one show need?
At least the peripheral characters get some time to shine, as we delve into their backstories for additional pathos and humour. More randoms keep getting added to Katarina’s harem, but I couldn’t name any of them if I tried. Despite the premise already feeling stretched to breaking point, season 2 is bizarrely not the end. No — taking a leaf from Slime’s moist, sticky book — Villainess is getting a movie. At least Slime has a big fantasy plot that may translate reasonably well to movie format, but the goofy, episodic adventures of clueless Katarina and her harem? I’ll see it when I believe it. Honestly, I’d be fine if this franchise just ended here.
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story Season 2 FUNIMATION (8 episodes)
I got so close to feeling positive about this gacha-blighted spinoff. Although season 1 was pretty but boring, the first few episodes of season 2 were like a different show — action-filled, propulsive and almost compelling. Finally, stuff that was important seemed to be happening. Then the production dropped off a cliff, with animation quality dropping like a stone, scenes with lip movements but no matching dialogue, shoddy artwork and jumpy editing. It looked like someone threw the last few episodes together in a garden shed with whatever crap was lying around. To add insult to injury, entire scenes in Funimation’s final episode stream went without subtitles for multiple characters. It was incomprehensible. (Apparently pirated versions were not affected by this idiocy.) When an animated show is struggling to convey its story via visuals, it kind of helps to have coherent dialogue to help the viewer parse events. What a spectacular failure of television production.
I expect this second season was supposed to be 13 episodes long, much like the first, so it looks like production issues forced the final 5 episodes to be released later, as “season 3”. Production studio Shaft did something similar when they animated Fate/Extra back in 2018. I wonder if this show will only be remotely watchable once it’s touched up/overhauled for its release on Blu-ray? If you asked me to try and summarise the plot of the last few episodes to you, I would not be able to. It was that bad.
Beastars Season 2: NETFLIX (12 episodes)
I love watching weird anime shows with my 16-year-old daughter — especially those that make her squirm so entertainingly. Utena and O Maidens were good for this, but certain scenes in Beastars season 2 were even better. You’ll know what I mean when I quote “I’ll eat you because I want to”. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Father-daughter anime time will never be quite the same again.
There’s nothing else quite like Beastars in the anime (or any other) world. It’s so goddamn weird but fun. I have absolutely no idea what it’s trying to say, and I’m not entirely sure that the show has any idea either, but it almost doesn’t matter. It’s an unholy mashup of Zootopia, Glee, Riverdale, Twin Peaks, The Godfather and Batman. Several of those things have no business being jammed together into a blender, but somehow Beastars makes it work, even if it makes its audience emit strange, uncomfortable noises every few scenes.
I’m glad that this CGI furry insanity has already been greenlit for a third season that I expect will conclude the demented plot. Having never read the manga, I have no idea where this is going, but I’ll sure as hell be along for the blood-soaked, fur-covered ride, dragging my hapless, screaming daughter behind me.
Thanks for reading to the end of my semi-coherent ramblings. It’s been hard to find time or motivation to write about anime recently. I’ll be back again in a few days to write about all the shiny new shows I was unable to stop myself from watching.
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