Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Winter 2021 Anime Season Part 2: Funimation
Yesterday I examined Crunchyroll’s packed seasonal slate, and today we’ll look at Funimation’s. This season, Funimation has most of the new shows and fewer sequels overall. Funimation’s apps still tend to be extremely flaky and at times completely refuse to stream certain shows via certain devices for me, without utilising unacceptable workarounds. Come on guys, get your act together.
Higurashi When The Cry: Gou: Episodes 13–19 of 24
Last time I reported that I felt bored with Higurashi Gou’s bare retelling of the original show’s plot with only minor variances. I’m happy to report that the second half of this series has dispensed with all pretence and is ploughing its own disturbing furrow into existential despair. We are very much in sequel territory now, and if new viewers weren’t completely lost before, they more than likely are now. The superficial story is easy enough to comprehend, but the underlying metanarrative is convulsing into new and interesting shapes — causing us to recontextualise the entire first half of the season and re-evaluate the characters and their motives. I don’t want to get into spoiler details about what I think is happening here, but Higurashi is notorious for blindsiding viewers with red herrings. I don’t even want to guess at how all this is going to end. Poor, poor Rika Furude never seems to get a break…
The Promised Neverland S2: Episodes 1–5 of 11
What the hell is going on with The Promised Neverland? Season one was one of 2019’s very best shows — taut, mysterious and exhilarating in equal measure. As a manga reader I was excited to see animated what I feel is probably the best arc in the entire story — Goldy Pond — only to find that for reasons utterly inexplicable, they have cut that section out entirely — removing something like 7 volumes of material and replacing it with an extremely clumsy time-skip. The subsequent reintroduction of a pivotal character (a huge, long foreshadowed and delayed plot point in the manga) is handled exceptionally poorly and I worry that the plan is to rush to an ending with this season. I get that this is an an adaptation rather than a straight transliteration, but I think they’ve screwed this up royally. I’m calling it now — this will be the most disastrous anime disappointment of 2021 if they continue like this. What were they thinking?
Cells at Work!! S2: Episodes 1–6 of 8
I’m so happy to see the return of this gloriously violent edutainment show about the gory inner workings of the human body. This season we’re even blessed with a contemporaneous spin-off (discussed further below). Unfortunately this is a truncated season of apparently only 8 episodes, I think probably because they ran out of material to adapt from the original manga. Just as well there are a bunch of other spinoffs out there ripe for further adaptation.
If you’re not a biology nerd, this might not be the show for you — it’s hardly gripping drama, and the characters are thinly sketched caricatures whose thoughts and actions are tied to their roles — but it does what it sets out to do very well. I find this hilarious and entertaining, and the new cute little lactobacillus characters are adorable. Also: keep an eye on background Killer T Cells striking typical Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure poses every now and then.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki: Episodes 1–6 of 12
As feverishly recommended by fellow AniTAY writer TheMamaLuigi — on this one occasion, he was right. This is a very entertaining High School drama — I’d hesitate to call it a romance because it’s more about how one introverted gamer boy starts to leave his shell and join in with life outside of his video game obsession.
I find it to be a somewhat more accessible version of My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu, with genuine humour and heart. None of the characters are stereotypes, they’ve all got hidden depths and meaning behind their actions. It isn’t a miserable depression-fest either, like some tiresome navel-gazing teen dramas can be.
I’m sure that Tomozaki-kun himself is easy to identify with for the majority of weeby introverts that I know who enjoy watching anime. If you’re an extroverted jock who enjoys team sports and struggles to sit still for more than a few minutes, perhaps you won’t empathise quite so strongly with the main character, but the rest of the cast is strong enough that you may still find this a good time. Duracell-bunny-like Minami Nanami is particularly fun, even if she does torment her (female) friend by randomly sticking her head up her t-shirt, huffing her chest and licking her bellybutton(!)
Written with significantly more intelligence than the average anime High School show, I’ll keep watching to see if Tomozaki can become as engaged with the game of Real Life as he is with his beloved (and ridiculously on-the-nose) Smash Bros rip-off.
Horimiya: Episodes 1–6 of 13
Unlike The Quintessential Quintuplets S2 (mentioned in yesterday’s Crunchyroll article), the brisk pace of this wonderful odd-couple romance show is a bonus rather than a hinderance. Perhaps this is because it dispenses with any protracted harem nonsense and gets straight to the point — developing the mutually supportive and loving relationship between the two adorable, dorky leads. Freed from the need to flesh out multiple female suitor characters, it instead dives deep into what makes “popular girl” Kyoko Hori and seemingly aloof Izumi Miyamura tick.
Neither seem particularly experienced at relationships, and they way they fumble towards understanding is part of the show’s understated charm. There’s a refreshing lack of typical anime overwrought emoting and more of a quiet, thoughtful progression to their halting attempts to grow closer. Miyamura is certainly an atypical lead character with his multiple self-piercings, extensive tattoos and long floppy hair. Even Hori isn’t a typical popular girl — she’s hard-working, homely and responsible, caring for her brother after school to help out her mother.
Of the growing supporting cast, I particularly like Hori’s deadbeat dad who drags Miyamura into uncomfortable situations to often hilarious effect. I love how her family accepts him so completely that he has basically no choice but to accept their acceptance. Outside threats to the central relationship are resolved quickly and efficiently, with little room for excess fat in the economical plotting. Also this show contains perhaps the most blunt and understated love confession in the entire history of anime. Watch it.
Cells at Work: Code Black: Episodes 1–8 of 13
So I’ve never before seen an episode of anime that dealt with erectile dysfunction. Nor one that featured a gonorrhoea invasion, but those are the delights you can expect to experience with Cells at Work’s darker, edgier cousin. Where the original series deals with the physiology of a body that works correctly, Code Black details the pathology of a body that does not. Code Black’s body’s owner is stressed, drinks too much alcohol, smokes, practices unsafe sex and has arteries clogging up with vast deposits of cholesterol that make the interior look shabby and dirty.
Unlike the brightly-coloured, breezy and (mostly) upbeat parent series, Code Black uses more washed out, dirtier tones and shading that emulates the manga’s cross-hatching. The individual cells interact differently too — instead of the respectful cheeriness of the female Red Blood Cell, we have a traumatised male Red Blood Cell who is thrown into the deep end of a demanding, exhausting job that has ground his seniors down into emotionless wreckage. They treat him with disdain, as do the the grumpy little platelets who are a far cry from their angelic counterparts in the original. White Blood Cell has also been sex-swapped, and she remains a formidable close-quarters warrior who displays her primary weapons front-and-centre for all to ogle.
Code Black does not flinch from depicting the horrors of chronic illness and physical degeneration. Cells die horribly, are poisoned, maimed, and phagocytosed once they reach the end of their usefulness. Cells at Work is refreshingly frank about bodily functions, Code Black (as the name suggests) revels in the darker side, and as a physician, this is a far more interesting proposition to me than a mere physiology tutorial. I’ve already used an episode of this as an impromptu tutorial with my current attached medical student to discuss pathology and correct treatment. Apparently one single episode was more educational than the majority of his usual lectures. I’m not sure if that’s a strength of the anime or a failing of his medical school. Perhaps I should suggest some changes to the curriculum…
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation: Episodes 1–6 of 11
This could be my favourite show of the season — and it’s an isekai at that. Perhaps I’ve not been feeling well, or perhaps my brain’s been eaten by alien zombie parasites? No — this has a very standard premise — a 30-something loser is killed in a road traffic accident and is reincarnated into a child in a medieval fantasy setting, but with all of his adult memories intact. So far, so yawn-inducing. But the execution and worldbuilding is almost second-to-none (only Re;Zero arguably does it better.)
Main character Rudy is a little shit, and whether you can enjoy this series will depend on whether you can tolerate him or not. Please note that you are not meant to sympathise with this perverted man-child who objectifies women constantly, steals underwear and crosses unacceptable consent lines on multiple occasions. The whole point of the story is that he is human trash but he’s been given a second chance at life that will gradually beat him into shape.
The supporting characters are hardly saints either — Rudy’s dad is a womanising bully who has committed some atrocious deeds, but the story (and sometimes Rudy himself) calls him out on this. Again, this may be difficult for some viewers to swallow but I’m firmly of the opinion that drama without flawed characters is boring as hell, and this drama is full of flawed, well-realised characters who make not always morally acceptable choices that may or may not blow up in their faces later.
It looks great, with a very muted, earthy palate and beautiful animation full of light extra touches that make the world appear lived-in, alive. Barely a second of screen time is wasted, with much background information and character beats surely building towards greater plot significance in future. I really can’t recommend this enough (but including the previous qualifications — YMMV.)
Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town? Episodes 1–4 of 12: DROPPED
It says a lot that I’m continuing to watch the bottom-of-the-barrel dreck that is Hidden Dungeon yet dropped this after 4 episodes. This is perhaps the most bland fantasy bilge I’ve suffered in a long time. It’s not even bad enough to generate laughs from criticising it. Don’t let the passable first episode fool you — Boonies is a boring and repetitive waste of time.
Otherside Picnic: Episodes 1–6 of 12
Based on a series of novels about a pair of twenty-something girls exploring a dangerous alternative dimension filled with monsters dredged from the darkest of Japanese internet Creepypasta stories, this is a fun horror-tinged fantasy. I hear the novels lean into the sheer WTF creep-factor of the abominations the main characters run screaming from, while the show leans a bit more towards goofy adventures. I still like this a lot.
It’s ostensibly a yuri show, so there are some hints of romance/longing between the main characters but in general that’s kept to subtext. Mostly this is a story about survival in an inexplicably weird world where odd stuff happens for no apparent reason other than it is unsettling and looks cool. I don’t expect any of this stuff to ever be explained, but I am completely fine with that.
Structured like a fever dream, it reminds me a great deal of one of the original isekai stories — Alice Through The Looking Glass — full of bizarre characters and strange events. Our main characters start off by deliberately travelling to this “Otherside” dimension, but they soon find themselves falling into it at unexpected intervals. It has an unpredictable, obscure vibe to it that reminds me somewhat of Serial Experiments Lain, though the subject matter is completely different. It won’t be for everyone, but I think it’s great.
Wonder Egg Priority: Episodes 1–6 of 12
A surprise hit of the season, I knew nothing about this before watching and perhaps that’s the best way to experience this phenomenal show. Densely-packed with meaning, subtext and incredible production design, this is like the bastard child of Flip-Flappers, Madoka Magica and Revolutionary Girl Utena. I doubt that much can be taken at face value in regards to what occurs in the first few episodes, as I fully expect everything to be torn apart and recontextualised later.
What I do know is that this features a disparate group of teenage girls, all with mental or physical scars who all feel desperate grief and regret at losing someone close to them. In response to a vague promise that their lost ones will be revived, they must venture into a dangerous dream world and protect the souls of other girls from their greatest fears.
Examining heavy subject matter such as suicide, self-harm, sexual abuse and more, the show is not a light and breezy anime with which to chill out to after a hard day. It’s challenging and cerebral — but in a way that involves brightly coloured explosions and incredibly animated fights against otherworldly monstrosities. I’m really intrigued as to where this show intends to go.
And finally, I guess I’d better mention what’s on HIDIVE:
Redo of Healer: Episodes 1–2 of 12: DROPPED LIKE A STEAMING TURD
Don’t even waste your time with this disgusting show. It isn’t worth it. If you must sate your curiosity, go read my detailed warning about it here, then forget it exists.
Thanks for reading this double-length mid-season assessment. There sure is a lot of anime to watch out there, and I hope I’ve helped you to narrow down which may be of interest to you, and which to avoid like the plague. I’ll be back at the end of the season with definitive opinions on all of these shows. Until then, stay safe out there!
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