After the previous two seasons’ unrelenting barrage of high quality, unmissable anime, I have to admit I was feeling a bit burned out watching over 20 new shows per season. In some ways I am glad that Summer 2021 has burdened me with a significantly lighter load. Saying that, life has been busy and I’ve not been able to watch everything that’s caught my eye. Mostly I’ve been watching sequels and ongoing shows, with a smattering of shiny new things. Let’s get to it. (Each entry will have an individual spoiler warning, if warranted.)
Tokyo Revengers: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–20 of 24)
Like Erased but with more juvenile deliquent violence, this eccentric time-travel/teenage gang/organised crime drama is certainly compelling despite its increasingly troublesome pacing issues. Every episode seems to start with a 5-minute recap that really eats into the short runtime. Many scenes are padded by characters discussing the plot in excruciating, repetitive details when really all I want to see are the central hooligans beat the stuffing out of their enemies/each other.
Thankfully the ridiculous, cartoonish action has intensified as we enter the final quarter of this double-cour-length show. I’m expecting bloodshed, brutal twists and grievous bodily harm. I hope enough characters survive for a second series. With 24 volumes currently in print, the progenitor manga was recently announced to be entering its final story arc, so there should be enough material for another two to three 24-episode seasons at least.
Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun Season 2: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–19 of 21)
I can’t believe this utterly delighful fantasy/school comedy only has two more episodes to go. They’d better make a third season and give me more of Supreme Best Girl Ameri Azazel. I love that she’s this confident, towering, muscular goddess, feared and respected by all, but she’s reduced to blushing and stammering around the relatively miniscule and meek Iruma (who seems oblivious to her screamingly obvious attraction to him). They make such an odd, but sweet couple who complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
With a strong supporting cast and fun background details that tie into a larger ongoing plot, this is a more intelligent show than the breezy tone and occasionally slapstick humour would seem to initially suggest. If you’re not already watching this, I heartily recommend you give it a try. I leave every episode with a huge grin on my face.
That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime, Season 2 Part 2: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–19 of 24) SPOILERS
I just cannot enjoy this show the same way since squashy blue protagonist Rimuru sacrificed the souls of 20,000 surrendering enemy soldiers in order to evolve to “Demon Lord” status. Sorry mate, but now that you’re expanding your dominion via subterfuge (setting up a puppet king in an enemy kingdom), brainwashing his own nation (his subjects worship him like a god) and slavery (the ultimate fate of his foe Clayman’s also possibly brainwashed army), then I’m afraid you’re now The Bad Guy.
I never expected Slime to become Overlord, but he’s really become a less skeletal Ains Ooal Gown at this point, but the show seems intent on framing him as some kind of hero. Rimuru commits or endorses atrocities, turns a blind eye to his underlings’ torture of prisoners, all the while laughing and playing around. This isn’t fun any more, and I hate it.
If I thought for a moment that the author was deliberately intending to write a nuanced story about a morally compromised dictator, then I’d give this a pass. But he clearly isn’t. Rimuru is framed as a good guy, there seems to be little commentary on (or recognition of) the immorality of his actions, and nor does Rimuru appear to even retain a conscience. His obscenely overpowered “Raphael” ability solves his every problem, removing any possible tension from the story. Rimuru needs to evacuate an entire country and teleport an entire army? No problem! He’s just invented a new type of grossly overpowered magic that utterly smashes any previously established rules.
The worldbuilding is still kind of interesting, but it seems so slapdash and inconsequential. It doesn’t help that majority of the last 6 episodes’ content has comprised meetings. It’s like the anime equivalent of endless committee discussions that drain your soul and numb your mind to the point you’ll agree to anything to Please Make The Talking Stop. I feel that I’m only continuing to watch because of the sunk cost fallacy, and that’s no way to retain viewers.
Make Rimuru face real consequences for his actions, without any bullshit plot contrivances absolving him of responsibility or reversing characters’ deaths, and then I’ll be interested. Now Slime is nothing but an ill-conceived, blatantly-transparent fascist power fantasy. Ugh.
To Your Eternity: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–18 of 20) SPOILERS
I really enjoyed the first twelve episodes of this tragic fantasy, but I’ve not been too sure about the last six. Immortal orb-person Fushi is now on a prison island where only the strong survive, and burly men battle for the coveted position of leader… This isn’t a story trope/setting I particularly enjoy and I feel that the original Kino’s Journey anime made a better job of this in a mere two episodes.
Eternity’s animation quality has also taken a dive, with so many obvious shortcuts showing that the production staff have either run out of money or time, which is a shame as this property deserves better treatment. Things are looking up plot-wise (though perhaps not for any of the characters) as Fushi’s creepy, tentacle-y enemies “The Nokkers” have discovered how to reanimate human corpses and invade living humans to produce a terrifying zombie army.
The addition of disturbing body horror has helped increase the stakes, and of course several of Fushi’s new friends have already been horribly maimed and killed. Because you know that no-one Fushi meets is ever going to survive, right? I hope the story continues to evolve further away from this central premise soon, as it could potentially devolve into repetitive misery porn otherwise. It reminds me a lot of Rumiko Takahashi’s horror-drenched Mermaid Saga manga about an immortal wanderer and the people he meets during his extended life. It was more episodic in nature, but sensibly ended after three volumes. Eternity’s source manga is still running at fifteen…
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–7 of 12)
Despite its ongoing creepiness involving child characters, I still overall love this funny, heartfelt show. I still don’t feel I can watch it with my youngest son, though. I’d like it a lot more without Lucoa’s continual sexual harrassement of little boy Shouta, if ENORMO-BOOBED Ilulu didn’t look like a 5-year-old with inflatable flotation aids strapped to her chest, and Kanna’s grade school friend Rika didn’t practically orgasm every time she interacts with the little child dragon. It makes me shiver every time.
Otherwise, this is a gently humorous and heartwarming show about a bunch of weirdos (dragon and human) learning to navigate modern human society, become good friends with one another and generally have fun. Edgy, serious Fafnir is always good for a laugh, and Elma and Tohru’s recently uncovered backstory is surprisingly poignant. There hasn’t been much development of the central Kobayashi/Tohru relationship, mainly due to the show’s focus on fleshing out its side characters. This is mostly fine with me, if only it dialled back a bit further on the creepy shit.
Higurashi When They Cry: Sotsu: FUNIMATION (episodes 1–9 of 15) SPOILERS
Following the pattern established by original 2006 Higurashi TV series and its sequel Kai, Sotsu comprises the “answer arc” equivalent for the recent Gou series’ “question arcs”. It remains to be seen how necessary this is, as so far it has offered very few answers that could not have been easily inferred from Gou’s 24 episodes. So far, we’ve had a three-episode answer arc corresponding to Gou’s four-episode Demon-Deceiving arc, another three-episode answer arc corresponding to Gou’s four-episode Cotton-Deceiving arc, and a further (at least four episodes) answer arc corresponding to Gou’s five-episode Curse-Deceiving arc.
Each of these answer arcs has, I admit, offered some extra little surprises and some nice additional context, but mostly they expound upon how much of an evil little shit Satoko has become. I was never a Satoko fan anyway, but I did particularly enjoy Kai’s extended story arc where Keichi rousingly united the entire village to save Satoko from her abusive uncle. I thought this was an emotionally charged, accurate portrayal of how abused children think and act, and it was probably my favourite part of the original storyline.
Unfortunately, making Satoko a cackling villain who manipulates her now repentant uncle and injects a policeman with mind-altering substances to make him murderously paranoid, kind of undercuts the message of the original story. From a lore and meta-story point of view it’s very interesting, but emotionally it feels cheap and ill-considered.
I still very much enjoy the show, and perhaps the final 6 episodes will hopefully recontextualise things in a more surprising ways other than “it was Satoko all along! Bwa ha ha ha ha!”
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Roads Lead to Doom X: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–8 of 12)
If ever there was a show that didn’t need to exist, it’s this one. Villainess’ first season was hilarious and ended well. It was inevitable that any sequel would be an unecessary retread. That doesn’t mean this second helping doesn’t have its merits, but it really only is more of the same. Isekai’d protagonist Katarina Claes is still obsessed by sweets, remains as dumb as a box of rocks and continues to be utterly oblivious to the feelings of those in her voluminous (and growing) multi-gender harem.
At some point this will become mind-numbingly repetitive, but so far this very episodic sequel has managed to shake things up a bit by focusing a bit more on the supporting cast rather than our dense heroine. The recent episode featuring an enchanted dollhouse was extremely funny, as was the episode featuring the usually quiet Nicol’s failed attempts to find a fiance. I no longer feel this is exceptional appointment viewing though. It’s merely become just another show I watch, and I wouldn’t miss it if it went away. Judging by the light novel source material, there’s no hope of plot resolution any time soon, just more of the same, over and over and over and over…
Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story Season 2 (episodes 1–4 of 8) FUNIMATION
While we’re on the topic of more of the same, here comes Studio Shaft’s ever-so-pretty but thematically empty continuation of Madoka Magica’s gacha game spinoff. We’re at the point in the plot where I gave up reading the endlessly boring screeds of in-game text that drew out the story to achingly thin proportions, shortly before dropping the game entirely. The international version was cancelled soon after, though it continues in Japan.
From what I can tell, Shaft have streamlined the adaptation and also added new character Kuroe (remember her? She turned up in season one, episode one before disappearing). While the first season was thirteen episodes in length, the second season is a truncated eight episodes, likely because the recently announced “third season” is probably the remainder of the original second season order. Seems very similar to the trick Shaft pulled with Fate/EXTRA Last Encore back in 2018. Whether this is due to production delays or was planned all along, I have no idea. Regardless, this remains an extremely pretty show, especially the spectacular action sequences in episode 4 of this season.
The first episode of season two focuses heavily on the original Madoka Magica characters, and only goes to show how well-developed and compelling they are compared to the insubstantial gacha-fuelled pretenders who populate the rest of the episodes. Sorry, but there is nothing in this remotely as rich or as tragic as the relationship between Madoka and Homura, not even considering this adaptation’s attempts to wring empathy for Iroha Tamaki and her forgotten sister (who cares?) and Yachiyo Nanami’s dull modelling trauma.
As far as worldbuilding goes, it adds some interesting new wrinkles to the Madoka mythos, but fails to reach anywhere close to its progenitor’s stratospheric sense of mythology or tragedy. Perhaps by the end of the third season we’ll be able to look back and appreciate the long, winding road it has led us down, but I’ve a feeling the view will be sparse and empty. What it has achieved so far in seventeen total episodes barely matches what the original did in three, let alone twelve.
Beastars Season 2 (episodes 1–8 of 12): NETFLIX
Furry alert! Everyone’s favourite Zootopia+perversion mashup returns to Netflix, once again dumped in one unholy splurge to be inhaled in a single hit, probably in the context of a drug-fuelled orgy populated by weirdly-costumed strangers. Well, that ain’t my style (as I’m sure you will all breathe a sigh of relief, anime hasn’t quite perverted my desires so far yet), and I’ve been watching it a couple of episodes at a time. With my daughter, who continues to hilariously squirm at the uncomfortable bits.
I love this show. It’s so weird. The CG is fine, though I do wish Japanese animation studios would give up on the whole frame-skipping thing. It’s jerky, distracting and makes it look bad compared to other countries’ CG shows. The fantastic character design and noirish direction almost makes up for it, but not quite.
Nervous wolf Legoshi remains a compelling lead — this time he’s trying to be Batman, hunting down his friend Tem’s killer like an amateur detective, while receiving nocturnal fighting lessons from a killer panda and hunting down meat-obsessed carnivores. Oh, and haughty, theatrical deer Louis is a mafia don now, forcing himself to wolf down raw, meaty chunks of flesh to impress his new carnivorous lion underlings. It’s all so gloriously absurd. It’s like if Riverdale and National Geographic spawned a deformed furry child.
Anyway, I hear a third season has been confirmed, so looks like there’s plenty more furry weirdness to come. Netflix must be making money from this very niche entertainment product. Obviously it can’t be marketed to people like me. I’m normal, aren’t I? (Growls like a carnivore under his breath, then glances around the room sheepishly, panicked that someone may have heard.)
Girlfriend, Girlfriend: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–5 of 12) DROPPED
It’s been a while since I’ve watched something I so viscerally hated as much as I hate this. I admit that I don’t mind watching a bit of absurd anime trash every now and then — I survived entire seasons of Domestic Girlfriend and Rent-a-Girlfriend — but Girlfriend, Girlfriend is far worse than these. At least those other two shows seemed to be written by someone with even half a brain, featuring characters who weren’t so stupid that they needed to be institutionalised for their own safety. No, Girlfriend, Girlfriend features the most contrived, most idiotic love polygon in the history of anime. Even just writing about it makes me grind my teeth and clench my fist until my knuckles turn white.
The initial concept of an anime romantic comedy focusing on a polyamorous relationship is already pretty sketchy, considering this genre of anime’s common issues with melodrama, absurd plot contrivances, objectification of females and overuse of tired tropes. Add in something as difficult to adequately depict as a functional ethical non-monogamous multi-person relationship, and you are asking for trouble.
Girlfriend, Girlfriend doesn’t even attempt to explore any of the complicated emotions, compromises and difficulties inherent in this type of relationship. Nope — it’s dumb, disrespectful and abusive towards its female characters, none of whom act like sentient human beings. Central boy Naoya is an irredeemable arsehole, his girlfriend Saki shrieks at the top of her voice at the slightest provocation, and third wheel girl Nagisa appears to have almost no personality of her own other than “cuteness”. Oh and they all move into high-schooler Naoya’s house because his parents are conveniently “away”. Of course. And they all sleep together. Of course. But because this is a PG-13 anime there’s no sexual activity, just endless, repetitive, tiresome innuendo. Of course. And so much loud, shrill screaming. O F C O U R S E.
The final straw for me was the addition of yet another girl, an abrasive and obnoxiouos YouTuber who forces her way into the relationship by camping in Naoya’s yard and refusing to leave. That not one character considers calling the police to remove this tresspasser stretched credulity to the point my patience snapped and I dropped this like the foetid, steaming dog turd that it is.
Peach Boy Riverside: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–8 of 12)
This is a fun show marred by a gimmicky and inexplicable directorial decision to show the episodes out of order, creating a disjointed and frustrating narrative experience. It’s quite telling that in Japan it’s being broadcast on TV in anachronic order, however if you pay for a premium cable subscription you can watch it in the original intended order. Hmmmm. I smell bullshit.
Anyway, I admit the first chronological episode is pretty underwhelming and I fully understand why they decided to start with episode two, which introduces the best character — bunny girl Frau. But why jumble the rest of the episodes around? Now even two thirds of the way into the season, I can’t say I see any good justification for this bizarre narrative choice. I wrote about this in more detail in a recent “Early Impressions” article here. I probably wouldn’t be watching this if I hadn’t been assigned the show to write about, but I’m enjoying it enough to continue.
The Aquatope on White Sand: CRUNCHYROLL (episodes 1–7 of 24)
Let me get this out of the way first. “Aquatope” is not a real word. Go read my colleague Dec’s “Early Impressions” article about the show here for an explanation. It’s another gorgeously-depicted PA Works show, this time set in rural Okinawa, featuring two teenage girls with damaged dreams who support each other through various difficulties. It is slow-paced and contemplative, but very well-worth watching for viewers who enjoy slice of life or “iyashikei” (healing) anime. I’ll be writing about it more in the upcoming AniTAY Summer 2021 seasonal anime article. Look out for it!
Remake Our Life! — (episodes 1–7 of 12)
Remake has a similar initial concept to Tokyo Revengers without the bloody teenage violence, or Erased without the child murdering. It’s another one of those wish-fulfillment shows where a twenty-something Japanese man has accumulated enough regrets that he feels his life has stagnated to the point he wishes he could go back in time to change whatever went wrong in his childhood/teenage years. I’ll always point to Jiro Taniguchi’s fantastic 2-volume manga A Distant Neighbourhood as the archetype for this trope in Japanese popular fiction (though there are probably earlier examples).
In a way, it’s almost like a sub-genre of isekai, as one day our protagonist just randomly wakes up in a different world, but instead of a land filled with dragons, wizards and improbably busty elves, it’s the world of a decade previously and he’s been inexplicably been granted the chance to change his decisions. In this case, 28-year-old Kyouya Hashiba gets the chance to accept his offer of attending art college, rather than chickening out and attending mainstream college and failing to achieve any of his dreams, as we witness in the first double-length episode (which is really two separate episodes spliced inexplicably together).
We follow Kyouya as he moves into shared accommodation with several other students who turn out to be his future heroes — the “platinum generation” of three young creators who in his original timeline went on to great acclaim in the fields of writing, art, and music. Kyouya quickly becomes indispensible to them as a coordinator/producer/director/problem solver/confidante and it’s heartwarming to see how he gradually recovers his self-confidence as others compliment and respect his abilities. My favourite part so far is an absolutely incredible Haruhi Suzumiya reference that fits the 2006 setting like a glove. I won’t spoil the details, but if you know anything about mid-2000s anime, you’ll recognise it when you see it.
Unfortunately latter episodes have moved away from the plot about burgeoning creativity and focused instead on tired anime romantic comedy/love triangle tropes that do my head in. Honestly, If I see one more character getting flustered by having another character’s boobs squished against their back, I am going to scream. I hope this is only a blip, because I’m getting progressively more irritated by it. Otherwise, Remake comes highly recommended, even if only as blatant wish-fulfillment.
That’s all I’ve found time to watch so far this season. I still intend to catch up on My Hero Academia Season 5 at some point, but I might just wait until it’s all dubbed so I can watch it with my youngest son. The Case Study of Vanitas looks interesting, as does Sonny Boy. Fena the Pirate Princess just dropped its first 2 episodes on Crunchyroll somewhat late in the season, so I’ll maybe check that out. Some of my AniTAY colleagues are raving over comedy shows The Duke of Death and His Maid and The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, but their track history with comedy recommendations isn’t always great, so I’ll only check them out if I have a surplus of time, which seems unlikely.
See you again at the end of the season for my Summer 2021 Anime Postmortem!