As the pandemic begins loosening its grip on some countries, I decided to let the other AniTAY authors out of their cages for another seasonal recommendations article. It was not possible to socially distance all of the bad takes during deliberations, but I think we still managed to compile a collection of anime worthy of our readers’ attention. It helped that this spring season gave us quite a bit to work with!
***Interested in honing your writing skills? AniTAY is now recruiting! Apply to be a writer now by completing our application form!***
For those of you new to our blog, AniTAY authors from around the world gather to select our favorite new anime each season. The result of weeks of debate is a formal list of what we consider to be the best new series on air. You may not like every show we picked, but I believe that all but the most whiny of anime hipsters will find at least something to pique their interest here. Some quick notes before we get started:
1) As always, we have omitted continuing shows and sequels. Only new stuff here. Check out our spring sequel guide for information about sequels.
2) Similarly, only shows available for legal streaming are considered. Netflix has complicated what the word “available” means, but we still consider limited-availability shows such as Netflix originals for this list.
3) We included a “where to watch” section, but keep in mind that our listings are based on availability in the United States.
Now that we have the introduction out of the way, I give you the official AniTAY anime recommendations of spring 2021!
Written by: Arcane
Genre: Sports, Slice-of-Life, Comedy
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A young baseball player in his third year of middle school finds himself spectating the Inter-High Men’s Rhythmic Gymnastics competition, but is shocked when a group that executes a nearly perfect routine still isn’t able to win due to having an undersized team. Enraptured by the movements of the human body, he decides to enroll in the school he watched perform and starts training from the basics to help lead the team to a championship.
Why You Should Be Watching: I frequently compare new sports anime to Haikyuu!, but there is an important component of that particular work that very few others manage to replicate.
Haikyuu! has…Boys. With a capital B.
It is somewhat difficult to explain the difference between “boys” and “Boys”, but there is an inherent quality to Boys that makes them distinct. Usually there are several of them, but each have personalities unique enough to make them all essential to the group’s dynamic. They can be rough around the edges and hot-blooded, but are nevertheless endearing to the audience.
Within a single episode, Backflip! had me sold on its Boys.
There were other things, for sure. The show begins with something I’ve never seen before — a fully-animated, uncut performance sequence in high-effort CGI — and very quickly manages to establish the characters with it, taking the time to animate each synchronized dancer distinctly. Even the 2-D animation proved extremely impressive for the studio that made Frame Arms Girl.
But…I’m here for The Boys.
Hot-blooded captain Masamune, cheery morale-booster Nagayoshi, mysteriously childlike Mashiro, and — my favorite — Gold-Hearted Rude Boy Koutarou all won my heart almost immediately with their genuine team dynamic. I could form an emotional connection to them right off the bat, thanks to the very good execution of simple archetypes that I have seen mangled many times before.
If there’s anything that’s going to sell you on Backflip!, it’s going to be The Boys. Watch the first episode and fall in love.
Recommended by: Arcane, Edmundton13, Hip Hip Jorge, Koda
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre: Sci-Fi, War, Mecha
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: For years, the Republic of San Magnolia has fought the Empire of Giad using ethical autonomous drones to prevent its precious citizens from sacrificing their lives. At least, that’s the official story. Major Vladilena “Lena” Milizé knows the truth — the Republic’s mechanised infantry are piloted by sacrificial children of minority ethnic groups, purged from the racially “pure” silver-haired Alba race within the country’s wall. No longer even classed as “human”, these denizens of the Republic’s 86th District lay down their lives for a ruling class who either don’t know or don’t care that they exist.
Why You Should Be Watching: War. What is it good for? Entertaining and thoughtful anime, it seems. A-1 Pictures’ 86 is a super-shiny blend of Ender’s Game, The Hunger Games, and Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans shot through with a screamingly unsubtle racism allegory and a hype-fuelled Hiroyuki Sawano score.
Despite being one of this season’s most-anticipated shows, I was a little underwhelmed by the first few episodes. Sure, it looked great, but it seemed derivative of the aforementioned properties. Lena is a fairly typical female anime protagonist — clad in slightly too-revealing, impractical clothes, with a tendency to blush or squeal at the slightest provocation, but harbouring a heart of gold and a strong moral compass. Given time, however, and the show peels away her superficial layers to expose the wounded soul beneath, one who has not escaped the unconscious bias instilled by her surrounding segregated culture. In calling her race “The Alba” (latin for “white”) this may as well be “White Privilege — The Anime”, which seems to be a weird thing to originate from Japan.
Lena’s task is to remotely command a squadron of teenage “86” recruits as they ride their ramshackle mechs into battle against the overwhelmingly sleek and shiny enemy automatons. Although she communicates with them via audio, she never sees their faces. Officially, they aren’t even supposed to have names. Despite warnings to the contrary, Lena does everything she can to attach to them emotionally — which comes as a cost, as their death rate is disturbingly high.
86 squad leader Shin (nicknamed “Undertaker”) makes a sober counterpoint to Lena’s overly friendly demeanour. As the longest-serving teenage pilot, he’s witnessed countless friends die and has developed a fatalistic, almost emotionless exterior. He’s no empty husk, though — he at least treats Lena with world-weary patience, and their relationship is a central lynchpin holding the show together.
The basic premise alone is enough to hang a reasonably interesting show on, and Sawano’s fantastic music elevates the sparse, short action scenes featuring much better-than-average (for anime) CGI. The most recent couple of episodes introduced sinister, almost existential horror-inflected concepts into the worldbuilding and backstory that made me sit up and pay attention. Suddenly, the main conflict has become more interesting, the stakes more profound. I’m now very much invested in this shrinking group of characters, even though it’s looking likely that only the smallest fraction are likely to survive until the end of the season.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Protonstorm, Reikaze, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre: Drama, Romance
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: His clumsy romantic advances spurned by his senior work colleague, drunken 26-year-old single salaryman Yoshida takes pity on Sayu, a runaway school girl he meets on his way home. He discovers she has been trading sexual favours to older men in exchange for temporary accommodation. As a decent human being, he refuses her attempts at seduction and instead provides her with a safe home in return for housekeeping duties.
Why You Should Be Watching: With a premise that screams “Yikes!” in 100ft-high neon-drenched capital letters, it’s easy to see why Higehiro is one of the more controversial shows of the season. Anime and manga haven’t exactly earned the best reputation when it comes to unusual character relationships. Look at the deluge of squicky “little sister” incest-baiting shows, or the eternally ill-conceived ending of Bunny Drop. Creators who base their anime on inherently unequal partnerships with potentially problematic power dynamics must toe an incredibly fine line to avoid prurient fanservice and exploitative fetish-fodder.
Thankfully, Higehiro (so far) has done an excellent job of putting shrill paedophilia-accusers in their place. Much like 2018’s fantastic odd-relationship story After the Rain, Higehiro is easily misconstrued by knee-jerk reactionaries who refuse to examine its context and subtleties. Mixed-up teen Sayu is forced to grow up too fast, surviving alone by selling the only asset she feels she has to offer. Higehiro does not shy away from her grim reality of transactional, meaningless sex — we see her dead-eyed stare while she lets an older man pleasure himself with her underage body.
Until she meets Yoshida, no man has ever tried to help Sayu unconditionally — they’ve offered shelter only in return for selfish gratification. That she’s internalised her value as a mere sex object is one of the show’s deepest tragedies, and despite Yoshida’s inelegant awkwardness, he begins to show her what true, selfless (not romantic) love is. Gradually, Sayu begins to appreciate her own self-worth as Yoshida encourages her to get a part-time job and make friends.
Such an unusual situation is not without its complications — Yoshida may be breaking the law by sheltering a minor, and much of the drama is centred around external threats to their odd little domestic setup. Yoshida’s love life is messy and, although he acknowledges Sayu’s physical attractiveness he steadfastly refuses to lead her on, he’s got enough trouble with two potential female colleague love interests. They’re both also slightly messed up, and their interactions are amusing without ever degenerating into stereotypical anime romantic comedy cliches.
A sensitive and emotionally intelligent show about a difficult situation and the complex human beings trying to navigate their way through it, I highly recommend you disregard ignorant naysayers’ criticisms of its premise, and watch Higehiro. I only hope it doesn’t spoil everything in its final episode by pulling a Bunny Drop.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, Gugsy, Kinksy, Stínolez, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: Dark Aether
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Comedy, Slice of Life, Seinen
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Hirosho Odokawa is a quiet man living an ordinary routine. Devoid of close relatives and rarely mingling with friends, he keeps to himself most days while working as a taxi driver. In a city that rarely sleeps with people always needing to be somewhere, you meet the oddest of creatures. For Odokowa, it is only the beginning when a series of unrelated conversations all point to a missing girl…
Why You Should Be Watching: From Beastars to BNA: Brand New Animal, animal-themed anime have become a staple in recent years. Rather than oversaturating the medium with the same tired clichés, they’ve helped stretch the imagination of what’s possible by creating new and exciting stories.
As the name implies, Odd Taxi is an unusual beast. It’s an anime original helmed by newcomers Baku Kinoshita (director) and Kazuya Konomoto (writer) stepping into an already stacked lineup of new and returning adaptations. It also has the distinct honor of being the most difficult show to classify, playing something more akin to Netflix and Adult Swim’s offerings than any recognizable anime I know. That’s because despite featuring a heavily inspired animal motif, Odd Taxi trades the whimsical and fantastical stylings of fantasy and action for something a little more down to earth.
While the story centers on walrus-man Odokawa and his nightly drives, he quickly finds himself wrapped up in the lives of his passengers and closest associates as the show teases a deeper, more intricate cover-up. Within the first few episodes, the series regularly places the spotlight on its anthropomorphic citizens, oftentimes spawning entire sub-stories ranging from comedic to bizarre. From an unemployed slacker seeking internet stardom to a comedic duo aiming for the big leagues to a wanted criminal seemingly looking for a lost item, Odd Taxi rarely lingers on one character or idea for too long. Every character’s decisions carry their own set of consequences as they find themselves spiraling downwards into a world they don’t fully comprehend.
You may have noticed by now how little I’ve mentioned the animalistic portion of the show. Oddly enough, the most appealing aspect of Odd Taxi has little to do with its zoological makeup, as it prefers to keep its cards close to its chest by emphasizing the underlying mystery and drama. Though it may appear underutilized, I think it highlights just how well written the central narrative is as I often found myself losing track of time while watching. It’s rare for a show to blend multiple genres, concepts, and points of view into one cohesive storyline, but Odd Taxi’s unique stable of characters continuously introduce new threads that interweave into one another without ever feeling out of place.
Like any good medium, animation has the power to craft different kinds of stories from all walks of life. Odd Taxi is no exception to this, taking the road less traveled and letting its passengers do the talking. Don’t let this taxi pass you by..
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Edmundton13, Hip Hip Jorge, Koda, Reikaze, TGRIP
The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent
Written by: TheMamaLuigi
Genre: Isekai, Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Sei Takanashi, an eternally tired office worker, is walking home from work one day when she is suddenly transported to the fantasy kingdom of Salutania. But, she’s not the only one summoned! With the other isekai’d girl declared the “Saint,” a powerful holy magic user destined to save the kingdom, Sei is left to live and survive in this entirely new world. Using her real-world knowledge of medicine and herbs, she sets to work becoming a healer and doctor. Before long, she meets a host of alluring, very attractive, and very single men, all of whom have their sights on Sei for a variety of reasons. Thus begins Sei’s new life in the picturesque land of Salutania!
Why You Should Be Watching: I love a good comfy isekai. Ascendance of a Bookworm, Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, and Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear all give me those warm fuzzies that only vibing in a fantasy world with your pals can evoke. The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent recalls the comfiness of its ilk while introducing its own spin on the genre to set it apart and, possibly, elevate it above the rest.
Saint is a tale of two shows. On one side, you have the show dealing with the conflict of two “Saints” summoned to Salutania. Though Sei is fine with giving up that role to be a medieval physician, her burgeoning powers draw her into a world rife with political underpinnings, secret chess-like plots, and her own reckoning with both her role and Salutania itself. Here, Saint is a show concerned with lightly interrogating what dual “chosen ones” means for a narrative so ingrained in our cultural consciousness. By casting Sei as unconcerned with her probable destiny, it suggests that fate-based narratives are as antiquated as the kingdoms that champion them.
On the other side, we have the shoujo romance about a geeky girl excited to play with plants and make potions. Conflicts here run as deep as rivalries between potential suitors, run-ins with ruffians, and the staggering development that Sei does not need glasses anymore! (She should definitely keep wearing them.) Here is the comfiness, the twenty-three minutes a week where you can sit down, relax, and vibe with your favourite cute maybe-Saint as she gets flustered over boys and, really, just lives her new life. It’s unchallenging, and that’s entirely okay. It’s unassuming, and it knows it. It’s fluff, and it’s so soft. Perhaps slowing down and embracing our new normals is the way to survive whatever comes our way. Like Sei’s potions, Saint is a panacea for a world still reckoning with what “normal” even means.
You’d think these two sides would be irreconcilable. For myself, The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent is best when it deftly interweaves narratives of blossoming love and self-growth with politics and predestination to create something simultaneously wholly unique and refreshingly familiar. It’s one of my favourite shows of the season; give it a watch, you might find her power not just omnipotent but inescapably charming.
Recommended by: Arcane, Doctorkev, Edmundton13, Gugsy, Kinksy, Reikaze, Requiem, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi, AoiYamamoto
Written by: edmundton13
Genre: Slice of Life, Supernatural
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Shadows House follows the titular family of nobles, who have a trademark pitchblack appearance, and their humanoid, doppelganger dolls as they go through their daily lives at the manor. The dolls are subservient to the shadows and must attend to them as servants, taking special care to clean up the mysterious and dangerous soot that emanates from the shadows’ bodies. At the show’s center is the relationship between Kate Shadow, a young noble trying to enter Shadow society, and her Doll, Emilico, the very embodiment of distilled sunshine. Kate and Emilico will have to maneuver through the political games that the manor has in store for them if they want to succeed and survive, respectively, all while coming to understand each other.
Why You Should Be Watching: There is an underlying creepiness to Shadows House hiding just below the cutesy moe appearance of Emilico and the other dolls. Just like how we see that the old, rickety pipes of the manor are filled with monstrous soot that originates from the nobles, the show itself hides signs of ever-present danger to our protagonists as well as the markings of abuse. There is a constant fear of being discarded that is instilled into the Dolls early on in their service, and despite them being what we would describe as human, it is only the faceless Shadow nobles who get to enjoy the luxuries of life. The familiar relationship between a person and their shadow is turned upside down in a way that is quite fitting for exploring the relationships between the nobility and their servants.
Truly, it is in the Shadow-Doll relationship where the show’s themes shine brightest. The Dolls’ purpose is two-fold: they must act as their master’s face and cater to their every whim in what can only be described as a master-slave relationship. Ironically, the Dolls can clearly do something which their masters cannot: express emotion through facial expressions. Nevertheless, the voice actors are amazing at conveying emotion and giving character to the shadows. At the same time, we can detect glimpses of envy that permeate their interactions. Dolls are subject to their masters’ commands, and although some shadow masters skew tradition to treat their dolls with humanity, others clearly center their relationship on abuse and see them as nothing but possessions to be discarded when defective.
In the end, though, Shadows House is quite effective at getting you to root for the friendlier shadow and doll pairs, whether it be Kate genuinely worrying for Emilico’s safety after she falls from a window or something as simple as John trying on glasses to help his doll Shaun combat his nearsightedness in the hopes that someday, even if far off, it will lead to a relationship built on friendship rather than duty.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, Edmundton13, Koda, Requiem, AoiYamamoto
Written by: TGRIP
Genre: High School, Mecha
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Yomogi Asanaka enjoys high school as a popular student with plenty of friends until he meets a young man named Gauma, a self-proclaimed “kaiju-user” who warns Yomogi of impending danger. A sudden kaiju attack immediately backs up the stranger’s claims, and Gauma conscripts Yomogi and three other bystanders (Yomogi’s detached classmate Yume, a NEET named Koyomi, and his cousin Chise) as pilots for the giant robot that also appeared to defeat the belligerent kaiju: Dynazenon. The five work together to pilot the mech and fight against both the giant monsters and the mysterious group of people who control them, Gauma’s former associates, who call themselves “Kaiju Eugenists.”
Why You Should Be Watching: Like its predecessor, 2018’s SSSS.Gridman, Dynazenon is in all likelihood the best mecha show of this year, and given how 2021 is seeing something of a mini-resurgence for the genre, that’s no mean feat. Now, there has been some debate as to whether this is a full-on sequel to Gridman, and best as we can tell this does take place in the same universe (or even multiverse) as that show, but Dynazenon works a bit like an MCU film in that it’s accessible to newcomers and existing fans alike. But don’t let that worry you, because Dynazenon shares much of the same creative team as Gridman, which means slick direction, a unique tone, fun and intriguing writing, and some of Trigger’s best work with animation so good it blurs the lines between 2D and CG. In terms of production, Dynazenon more than matches its predecessor.
What sets it apart, though, is its characters, featuring an expanded cast and giant robot design that’s worlds apart from what came before. Team Dynazenon all operate different parts of the titular mech, each part transforming into a different vehicle, which leads to interesting permutations on its central design. The humans themselves all have their own interesting backstories and arcs: Yomogi helping Yume look into the death of her older sister, Koyomi trying to find his own motivation after being out of school for years, and Chise trying to find exactly what place she has on the team, given how she doesn’t have a part of Dynazenon to directly call her own. Even the antagonists are engaging, each with their own unique personality. Members of the Eugenists go so far as to talk and interact with the central cast outside of conflicts in mundane situations such as attending school and chance encounters that lead to dinners where they vent their frustrations about their normal lives.
I might’ve come to this show for giant monster fights, but what’s keeping me in is seeing where the people inside the monsters go and do in between battles. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the talents behind it, but in a year with 86: Eighty-Six, Godzilla: Singular Point, Back Arrow, and even new movies for Evangelion and Gundam, SSSS.Dynazenon might truly end up as the giant robot anime that towers above them all.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Hip Hip Jorge, Kinksy, Koda, Requiem, Tenshigami, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
Written by: TGRIP
Genre: Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: High schooler Koguma doesn’t have much to look forward to: no parents, no friends, and no real hobbies or interests. While enduring the tiring commute to school on her bicycle, she decides to try out a motorcycle to make the daily journey easier. She takes an unexpected and instant liking to a cheap Honda Super Cub, and after getting her license she takes ownership of the bike. What follows is her experiences with the Cub, both in getting to know what it’s like to ride a motorcycle and how that bike opens up her world.
Why You Should Be Watching: Not only is Super Cub a love letter to perhaps the greatest form of motorized personal transport in human history, it’s also one of the most refreshingly grounded and potentially realistic slice of life shows that we’ve seen in quite some time. For ages I’ve wanted a show about something in the vein of “a boy and his car,” and this show of a girl and her motorcycle is right up my alley. Some might call it a blatant commercial for Honda, but to that I’d bring up how this is an adaptation of a light novel series and that the titular bike sells so well that it honestly doesn’t need the advertising (over 100 million units over half a century of production). This genuinely feels like a series about the joys of discovering what it’s like to have a vehicle that broadens your horizons, and after a year where we were stuck inside with no place to go, it hits a bit closer than it probably would in any other year.
Super Cub is a surprisingly divisive series, especially for a slice of life show, because of its tone and character designs; there’s less comedy than what you’d expect and it is rather quiet, but I’d argue that’s part of what makes it stand out. It’s not overly cutesy, there aren’t many GIF-able sakuga moments, and even once you’re on board the story can come across as mundane… and that’s the beauty of it. It feels real, even in moments that make you pause because of a character’s foolish choice — everything makes sense given the character’s circumstances. This show’s atmosphere might make it or break it for some, but there really is nothing else quite like it. This means that funny scenes and impactful moments land harder than they normally would. These elements culminate in a character’s first long-distance trip, resulting in one of the most memorable moments in anime this year; it’s simple, yet sublime all the same.. If you want a change-up from the usual moe or slice of life shows, or are a gearhead in any way, you owe it to yourself to give this one a look.
Recommended by: Hip Hip Jorge, TGRIP, umrguy42, Viking
Those Snow White Notes
Written by: Reikaze
Genre: Music, Drama, Coming of Age
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Setsu Sawamura grew up chasing the sound of his grandfather Matsugorou Sawamura, a shamisen master. When his grandfather passed away, however, Setsu was told to give up the shamisen if he couldn’t find his own sound; as a result, Setsu runs away to Tokyo, hoping that he can find himself in a new city. As Setsu is lost, both regarding his shamisen performance and in life, he joins the shamisen appreciation club in his new school. Those Snow White Notes follows Setsu as grows accustomed to his new life, his new friends, and finds himself.
Why You Should Be Watching: Those Snow White Notes revolve around the shamisen and the people who love it. As a person from the West, I always love works that expose us to interesting elements of Japanese culture I wouldn’t see otherwise, and Snow White Notes does this exceedingly well. The shamisen performances are powerful and moving all by themselves in ways we usually don’t see in anime. Often in shows like this, the performances are usually only important because of the direction. With Snow White Notes, you can feel the emotion in the songs themselves: the thoughts and feelings shine through the performances. Also, because it’s about the shamisen, it’s loaded with a ton of unique and interesting songs that make Snow White Notes worth watching for that reason alone.
That being said, Snow White Notes’ primary strength is in how it presents its themes, namely overcoming loss, dealing with expectations, and trying to find yourself. It’s not overly overt, and watching how events unravel and build upon these themes is extremely compelling. It’s a coming of age story for Setsu, and watching him find himself, adjust to expectations, and open himself to others is engaging and has me coming back to watch every week. Snow White Notes is not perfect, though: the animation is just average, the pacing is awfully fast for this kind of show, and at times it can feel melodramatic, but it explores a unique element of japanese culture in such a compelling way and pairs it with a great coming of age to make it one of the best that this season has to offer.
Recommended by: Reikaze, Requiem, Stínolez, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, AoiYamamoto
To Your Eternity
Written by: Koda
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Supernatural
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A mysterious being creates an immortal orb that can shapeshift into new forms upon receiving enough stimulation. They release the orb onto the planet, where it first makes contact with a rock. After an untold amount of time, the orb starts to grow moss. Eventually the planet enters an age of snow, which leaves the orb buried and without stimulation. That is, until a wounded and dying wolf just so happens to land on the orb in its last moments.
Why You Should Be Watching: To Your Eternity, by its very nature, is a melancholic show, even when it is not actively tugging at your heartstrings. There is an aura of sadness that permeates everything because you know any living being the immortal orb encounters in the course of the series is going to die eventually. It is what this show does with that knowledge that makes it stand apart from many of its ilk.
Many such tales are also tragedies, but they are mainly preoccupied with dwelling on the topic of death, specifically the desire for the immortal being in question to perish. To Your Eternity looks the other way, focusing on what it means to live. It has been said that what makes a person are the people they meet in life, and that thought is at the very core of To Your Eternity. The orb is constantly taking in stimulation, but when it meets a person or animal that makes a truly special impact on it, they achieve immortality as well, from a certain point of view.
When one such entity imprints on the orb in a stimulation event, once they pass away the orb can transform into their appearance. Presumably, their death is a requirement in the process because “death completes a man” as the excellent Vinland Saga puts it. Regardless of the reason, the orb can freely shift between all of its accumulated forms to use whichever one is appropriate for the task at hand. It is a genuinely heart-wrenching experience every time the orb loses one of its companions, but there is also a bittersweetness to it, as their life was not in vain. The orb will macabrely carry on with their visage, but more importantly, it will also retain all of its memories of them. As the saying often goes, you are never truly dead until everyone has forgotten you.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Kinksy, Koda, TGRIP, Reikaze, tengu22
Written by: Requiem
Genre: Drama, Time Travel, Regrettable Youth
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Takemichi Hanagaki is a loser. He’s a barely employed pushover muddling through his mid-20s mostly unnoticed by the world, except when he’s apologizing, which is constantly. To be honest, he peaked in middle school — he ran with a tight-knit group of semi-delinquent friends, and he was dating Hinata Tachibana, a girl frankly well out of his league. Unfortunately, a few bad breaks involving local thugs led to Takamichi running away and ending up in his current state. Hearing on the news that Hina and her brother had died in an incident caused by the notoriously violent Tokyo Manji gang just added insult to injury. Soon after, he is thrown by unseen hands in front of a train…and finds himself 12 years in the past, which turns out to not be a dream when he jumps back to the present and has changed history. Now he leaps back and forth in time, trying to save Hinata, setting right what once went wrong, and hoping each leap is the leap home.
Why You Should Be Watching: A wise (probably old) man once said, “youth is wasted on the young.” The fact is, you don’t really appreciate your youth until you’ve lost it; regret is an unavoidable part of life as you get older, those youthful choices getting further away and the path they set you on harder to deviate from. Thus is the power of a story like Tokyo Revengers, which is all about the chance to relive adolescence with the knowledge of the older, wiser version of you. Indeed, we at AniTAY have found in general, this show tends to hit harder the older the viewer happens to be.
It’s a solid hook of a concept, but time travel narratives are rife with pitfalls. Revengers avoids the majority of them and, most importantly, chooses to focus on the characters rather than the hows and whys of the time jumping; it’s a time travel story about people and not a story about time travel. It’s a good thing, then, that those characters are so damn great: Takemichi is a good guy trying his best, his empathy and decentness making him easy to root for. Hinata is a firecracker, assertive and adorable, the kind of girl who’s definitely worth hurling yourself through time for. There’s also Takemichi’s crew, who are all fun and occasionally tragic, and standouts Mikey, the charismatic-and enigmatic- leader of the nascent Tokyo Manji gang, and Draken, his right hand man and conscience; much of the plot revolves around these two so it’s fortuitous they’re such interesting, layered individuals.
For all its focus on character interplay and drama, it is still in many ways a mystery story: for Takemichi to achieve his goals of saving his girl, friends, and future, he has to navigate a situation for which he has incomplete or imperfect information at best and deal with the ever shifting consequences of his interventions. These mystery box elements have frequently drawn comparisons to ERASED, and that’s accurate to a point; Revengers isn’t quite as big a downer as that show could be (to be fair, it was about child murder.) The pacing, reveals, twists and turns are handled expertly and episodes often fly by, ending with the kind of cliffhangers that make one rue the week in between installments. Visually, it has a bright, kind of chunky aesthetic that works in its favor, and the music is used very effectively as well. It features an outstanding OP and ED, too.
Tokyo Revengers is a skillfully told story with relatable characters and a hell of a hook, with themes nearly everyone can relate to. It is absolutely one of the best shows of this season. Give it a shot.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Reikaze, Requiem, Stínolez, tengu22
Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-
Written by: TheMamaLuigi
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller, Music,
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: What do you do at the end of the world? If you’re Vivy, everyone’s favourite AI idol extraordinaire, you begrudgingly listen to the barely coherent ramblings of a talking floating-cube-turned-teddy-bear and set out on a decades-long quest to prevent that very end. The AI uprising is coming, and it is up to one idol-turned hero to save everyone both human and non-human. Along the way, you might find joy, you’ll most certainly find sorrow, and the very fabric (or circuitry) of who you are will never be the same again.
Why You Should Be Watching: Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-’s circuitry is of the highest caliber. An anime original between Wit Studio and Re:Zero creator Tappei Nagatsuki, the show displays all the hallmarks of an instant classic, making it one of the best shows of the year and, potentially, this still-young decade. Nagatsuki successfully makes the transition from assured isekai to experimental science fiction, showcasing his talent for crafting narratives both episodic and epic, remarkably intimate and staggeringly grand. Its themes of the dichotomy between AI and human and the intersections between duties both moral and assigned assures weave through tales of sisterhood, forbidden love, and sacrifice. It is writing at its most confident, bold in its choices and surefire in its direction. Its novel premise and constant status quo shifts recall recent AniTAY favourite DECA-DENCE, and Vivy’s questions of the lines between human and AI evokes that show’s central ideas, as well.
Much like Re:Zero and its much-discussed protagonist, Vivy centers itself almost exclusively around the titular AI idol. Vivy’s dedication to her function — which the show asserts is a feature of its take on AI — grounds her character in a sense of purpose that the show consistently plays with and deconstructs. Is Vivy, in saving the future, technically abiding by her given commands? At what point does she cease being “Vivy”? A mid-season twist complicates these questions even further and injects life into a show that was very much already living. With Matsumoto, the cube-turned-teddy, as her companion, the show experiments with buddy-cop or semi-manzai-type comedy to inject levity into moments that otherwise border on grimdark. Matsumoto, too, is steadfast in his goals, and the conflicts between him and Vivy are as entertaining in their comedy as they are in their ethical implications.
Vivy is among the seasons best in one of the best seasons. Nagatsuki’s considered writing, Wit Studio’s absolutely stellar production, and the show’s fresh exploration of common themes around AI, humanity, and moral imperatives makes it an easy recommendation right now and a hundred years in the future (AI uprising depending).
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Gugsy, Reikaze, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
This article was a collaboration by many members of the AniTAY community. Some wrote part of the final article, and several others took part in voting and discussion over the past couple of months.
Contributors in Alphabetical Order:
- Aoi Yamato
- Dark Aether
- Hip Hip Jorge
First time reading our seasonal recommendation list? Check out last season’s recommendations here:
The 8 New Anime of Winter 2021 You Should Be Watching
Hot off the presses, it’s AniTAY’s top new anime recommendations of the Winter 2021 season! But what made the cut? Only…
You’re reading AniTAY, a reader-run blog whose writers love everything anime related. To join in on the fun, check out our website, visit our official subreddit, follow us on Twitter, or give us a like on our Facebook page.