Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Spring 2021 Anime Season: Crunchyroll

DoctorKev
DoctorKev
May 31 · 12 min read
Demonic schoolgirls, oh my

Spring 2021’s anime continues to overwhelm not just in terms of sheer quantity, but also unprecedented quality. There’s such a variety of excellent shows at the moment that surely even the most picky anime fan should find something to enjoy. Last time, I covered Funimation’s current roster, but today is Crunchyroll’s turn. I’ve watched no less than eleven Spring 2021 shows on Crunchyroll alone, which is more than I watch in total in some seasons.

Platonic hugging — this isn’t as creepy as you might think from the basic premise

Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway — 8 of 13 episodes (Mondays)

I’ve already written about this controversial, yet sensitive and emotionally intelligent show on AniTAY’s recent seasonal collaborative article. I’ll not repeat myself here, so please read that article — my fellow authors also cover some shows I’ve not watched, so you owe it to yourself to be fully appraised on the season!

My daughter is disgusted that I think the Alpaca-girl is cute

ODDTAXI — 8 of 13 episodes (Mondays)

A funny animal anime that doesn’t need to feature funny animals. In contrast to Beastars, a show in which the main conflict is between a carnivorous male wolf and his biological impulses towards a herbivorous female rabbit, ODDTAXI’s characters act like human beings. Characters’ species are more illustrative of their individual personalities than indicating differences in race, culture or diet.

For a show featuring a walrus taxi-driver protagonist, ODDTAXI is surprisingly grounded, featuring realistic (and witty) dialogue from complex, flawed individuals with widely varied motivations and circumstances. Cleverly structured, there’s a central underlying mystery that inches forward in the background while the separate storylines involving the large extended cast begin to converge and interact. No doubt you’ll recognise your own character flaws in at least one of these down-on-their-luck anthropomorphic animals, as they struggle through life with money worries, purposelessness and impostor syndrome. It’s fascinating, though sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

D-d’you wanna be my friend?

To Your Eternity — 7 of 20 episodes (Mondays)

Based on the manga by Yoshitoki Ōima, this is a completely different genre than her previous A Silent Voice. A nameless orb is dropped to Earth by a godlike figure, with the intention of the orb experiencing life. The orb is able to shapeshift and take on characteristics of the lifeforms it comes into contact with — but apparently only after they die. After trying out existence as a rock, it becomes a wolf, and then meets a lonely boy, eking out a precarious arctic subsistence. The first episode is a perfect encapsulation of hopelessness and despair, shocking in its narrative brutality. It sets up an immediately intriguing scenario.

Eventually named “Fushi” (which means “immortal”) by a young girl he meets later, the orb takes on other forms as he learns how to eat, speak and interact with others. The manga has something of a reputation for being very emotionally manipulative, and I can see how it attempts to tug the heartstrings regularly by the story’s nature. Fushi meets new people, becomes embroiled in their lives, forms emotional attachments, then something terrible happens, people die, and he acquires a new form and new insight about existence. It’s a fertile ground with which to explore varied settings and stories, and so far I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve not been that moved by the various onscreen tragedies, though this could be upsetting viewing for the more emotionally sensitive viewer.

This is cool imagery, yes? Shame it does absolutely nothing interesting or coherent with it.

Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood — 6 of 12 episodes (Tuesdays)

So initially I thought this might be a fun homage to Kazuo Koike’s Lady Snowblood manga (the movie adaptation of which was lovingly homaged in Tarantino’s Kill Bill duology) as it follows a pale-faced beautiful woman assassin in an alternate history version of Japan. And for the first few episodes it was… ok. However, the storytelling falls apart after the first few episodes, characters act only to forward the ridiculously convoluted, overcomplicated, messy plot, and overall it is a flashy but incoherent production. I dropped it after six episodes as I found I was making excuses not to watch each new, increasingly tedious installment.

The girls are horrified by Kotaro’s next screw-up. I think the only reason they keep him around now is for his god-tier makeup skills.

Zombie Land Saga Revenge — 8 of 12 episodes (Thursdays)

The pop-idol zombies are back, and season 2 is as much of a hoot as the first. Idiot manager Kotaro bankrupted the group after the conclusion of season 1 by booking an enormous venue they couldn’t hope to fill, leaving them millions of yen in debt. We rejoin our favourite undead stars as they are reduced to menial work to repay Kotaro’s mistake, while he mooches around in bars, unkempt and drunk.

Thankfully the girls return to their previous, unhinged musical ways, with yet more slightly dodgy CGI performances (though notably smoother than season 1’s janky 3D-animation), and bonkers antics transposed with deep pathos. Nonverbal, drooling legendary idol zombie Tae as usual steals the show, with her spotlight episode a hilarious highlight not just of this season, but of the show as a whole. Delightfully demented, I am so happy Japan’s premier undead idols have returned once more from the grave.

Diablo’s friends conduct an impromptu “who can make the best constipation-face?” competition.

How NOT to Summon A Demon Lord Omega — 8 of 10 episodes (Thursdays)

I was perhaps a bit too harsh with this show back in AniTAY’s Spring 2021 sequel guide. It’s basically trash, but it’s fun trash, as long as you can stomach the pervasive perviness. Despite his title, Demon Lord Diablo is a decent sort who looks out for his friends and helps people in need (which can be a struggle when he’s trying to maintain his badass persona). Diablo remains comically intolerant of female attention, which is a problem when he’s closely followed by a growing harem of admirers.

I did find it difficult to remember who all of the characters were, because I’ve not watched season 1 since it first broadcast, and even then I was underwhelmed by it. This isn’t a big problem though, as the female characters can mostly be reduced to simple tropes: tsundere cat-girl, overly booby elf-girl, diminutive yet perky bunny girl, “holy” priestess girl, mischievous childlike demon girl… There’s really nothing new here, but it’s thrown together with such a sense of fun and ridiculously upbeat techno openers and closers, it’s difficult not to smile. A sweet but forgettable confection.

Demon Lord Ariel — what’s her plan exactly? The show isn’t telling us any time soon.

So I’m a Spider, So What? — 20 of 24 episodes (Fridays)

This unusual isekai show gets more and more interesting as it goes, demonstrating the author’s inhuman grasp of insanely detailed worldbuilding and conceptual exploration. We’re still running dual timelines, with Kumoko the spider running around overpowered and causing havok while the others from her class simultaneously reincarnated in her world are still helpless babies. The future timeline keeps us appraised of the now teenage reincarnated humans, but give us little clue as to what Kumoko’s up to. Each episode sprinkles tantalising hints as to what is really going on, though with only four episodes left it still feels we’re only at the beginning of a much larger story. I hope this is renewed for another season, as I don’t fancy seeking out the apparently stat-heavy source novels.

Iruma goes through his Edgy Phase

Welcome to Demon School Iruma-kun — 7 of 21 episodes (Saturdays)

Iruma-kun is an utter delight. I look forward to every episode of this lightweight but hilarious comedy. The first season was one of my highlights of autumn 2019/winter 2020 and the continuation remains as warmly funny as before. I particularly like that the long-teased “Evil Iruma” has now appeared — though he’s hardly a bad boy. He’s still as concerned for the welfare of others, it’s just he’s now learned to apply eyeliner and assert his desires more openly.

Iruma’s colourful cast of supporting characters keep the show entertaining, with hyperactive one-girl-meme-machine Clara as insane as ever and pink-haired fire demon Asmodeus as comically subservient as before. Best Girl Ameri remains very much Best Girl, though at 6'3" she does tower over the relatively shrimpy (perhaps due to being underfed as a child) Iruma. I love that she’s very three-dimensional, compared to other potential love interests from other anime shows. She’s not some stereotypical tsundere — she’s academic and intimidating when she needs to be, but is able to admit — and own — her softer, feminine nature. That she has desires and a role separate from Iruma is also a breath of fresh air. This is definitely the most heartwarming show this season.

Hand holding? Between girls? Ban this sick filth!

I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level — 8 of 12 episodes (Saturdays)

I initially worried this would be as awful as last season’s low-effort fantasy The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter. Based on a series of light novels about an overworked Japanese woman reincarnated as an immortal witch who has spent 300 years relaxing and splatting the weak slime monsters that cross her path, this is more of a comedic slice-of-life than a serious fantasy. There’s little in the way of ongoing plot, or conflict, or stakes. Just a cute witch lady trying to relax despite a rapidly growing cast of random fantasy female characters who keep dragging her into yet more absurd scrapes.

Yes, it’s essentially a harem show without a male self-insert protagonist — and it really doesn’t need one. Apart from some very light yuri undertones, and the odd bit of fanservice (another overly booby elf) this is a relatively non-sexualised show, (though there is a super-creepy “little sister” scene in episode 7… You’ll recognise it when you see it, then hopefully suppress its memory.) Mostly it’s a gentle comedy that’s unchallenging and humorous enough that I’ve felt no compulsion to drop it. Whether I’ll remember anything about it even a few weeks after it finishes is another matter.

I think Nagatoro is a fun character. YMMV

Don’t Toy With Me Miss Nagatoro — 8 of 12 episodes (Saturdays)

What a surprise. I never even intended to watch this, expecting to absolutely hate what looked like bottom-tier fetish fodder/wank material. I was so wrong — I’m not entirely sure why, but despite the very uncomfortable first episode, I absolutely adore this show. Does that make me a broken human being?

The so far unnamed high school second year protagonist (referred to, perhaps sarcastically, by the other characters by the honorific “Senpai”) is a quiet, arty type who prefers to keep himself to himself. Shy and spineless to a fault, he comes to the attention of the loud, brash younger first year student Nagatoro. Perhaps shark-like, sensing blood in the water, Nagatoro begins to relentlessly and ruthlessly tease him, fascinated yet disturbed that he refuses to defend himself or fight back in any way.

So from the first episode alone, you could easily read this as an unacceptable bullying fetish show… yet there’s much more to it than that. It becomes increasingly clear that Nagatoro holds deep affection for Senpai and in her own misguided way uses her teasing to try and drag him out of his antisocial, introverted shell. Correspondingly, it appears that Senpai enjoys the attention he gets from Nagatoro and is shown actively missing her when she isn’t there.

What this amounts to is a very sweet, slowly-developing romance between two kind-of-broken teenagers who struggle to properly communicate their feelings except via this bizarrely ritualised teasing relationship. Each episode, their masks slip just a little further — Senpai lets out an unguarded sentence that betrays his true feelings for Nagatoro, or Nagatoro goes too far and ends up embarrassing herself and blushing like a beetroot. She’s really a sweet, innocent girl inside, no matter how much she disparages him for being a “virgin”.

I suppose the fact that Senpai reminds me a lot of myself as a kid, and I had more than one female friend who messed with me just like Nagatoro, has a lot to do with why this show resonates with me. No matter how much I may have protested at the time, just like Senpai, I know I enjoyed the attention and was just as complicit in the perpetuation of the behaviour. I’m rooting for these two kids to eventually grow up and be able to tell each other how they really feel, without the mind games and overwrought theatrics that are so funny to watch.

Serious faces on now. We’re going to talk about Racism. And War.

86 EIGHTY-SIX — 8 of 11 episodes (Saturdays)

I already discussed this serious show in the aforementioned Spring 2021 Collab. It’s very good, if very straight-laced. Go read about it at the link below.

Tokyo Revengers — 8 of ? episodes (Saturdays)

I was late to the party with this one, because the official synopsis just did not sound interesting. I’m glad my fellow AniTAY writers convinced me to give this a try though, it’s absolutely great stuff. If you are a fan of nominal time travel shows like Erased, then this will be right up your street.

One of my very favourite manga is Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighbourhood, in which a dissatisfied middle-aged man inexplicably travels back into his teenage self’s body and makes different life choices. This kind of story becomes more poignant and relevant the older one gets and the more mistakes one makes. To explore the road less travelled, to find out what would have happened “if only” you hadn’t made that one choice… These are desires universal to the human condition. In Tokyo Revengers, main character Takemichi finds an opportunity to re-do his teenage years and prevent the death of his former middle-school girlfriend in the present day.

With a focus on street gang politics, the story reminds me a lot of Gungrave, except with fewer undead monsters. Takemichi has to preserve friendships that broke in the original timeline, prevent murders and safeguard his friends, all the while fighting against the weight of history and his incomplete understanding of why things went wrong. His girlfriend Hina is a standout character and rivals Iruma-kun’s Ameri for Best Girl of the season. Takemichi himself is an adorable crybaby — he’s got no fighting prowess, no incredible intellect — but he does have an unflappable desire to protect his friends and build a better future. I sincerely hope his efforts are rewarded.

Thanks for reading to the end of another of my whistle-stop tours through the current anime season. Join me again in early July when I’ll look back at the season as a whole and pick my favourite shows!

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