“It’s a slow season,” they said. “Not that many good anime right now,” they said. I’m here today to tell you to never listen to those voices of doubt, my friends, for even in the darkest of anime seasons, champions will arise to reward those of us with taste exquisite enough to understand what they offer.
Welcome, one and all, to AniTAY’s summer banquet of seasonal anime delights- 2021 edition! From boisterous battle games to scrumptious slices of life, we have consumed this season’s finest in an effort to ascertain the best of the best. Our goal? To present this platter of fine anime delicacies to you, our honored readers. With so many options, it can be difficult for even the most refined of palates to sample everything. We thank you for allowing us to simplify this task for you, and hope that you find our selections to your liking.
Before we begin tonight’s main event, I’d like to remind our guests of the rules:
1) As always, we have omitted continuing shows and sequels. Only new stuff here. Check out our summer 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.
AniTAY’s Summer 2021 Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Guide (feat. Some Other Sequels)
AniTAY’s Summer 2021 Sequel Guide
Without further ado, I present to you the latest and greatest anime of summer 2021!
The Aquatope on White Sand
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre: Slice of Life, Iyashikei (healing), yuri(?)
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Abandoning her dream of becoming a teenage idol singer, Fuuka Miyazawa runs away to the remote, idyllic Japanese island of Okinawa where she meets high school student Kukuru Misakino, an obsessive girl determined to save her family’s small run-down aquarium at all costs. Together, they support each other through their broken dreams.
Why You Should Be Watching: PA Works’ IRODUKU: The World in Colors was one of my top anime of 2018 — a delightful, gorgeous, and relaxing anime-original production that resonated with complex emotions and dazzling imagery. Aquatope looks to continue that tradition with this understated but stunningly beautiful, evocative parable about imperfect people and their struggles with imperfect dreams and ambitions.
Our two central characters couldn’t be more different — blue-haired acting aquarium manager Kukuru pursues her goals with single-minded determination that lacks common sense or regard for the feelings of others. The meeker Fuuka gave up her place in a idol group to a younger girl with more drive, her ingrained deference to others needs superseding her own. Now, Fuuka feels lost, adrift at sea, and latches onto Kukuru and her dreams of saving her aquarium as a way to find meaning and avoid returning home to an overbearing, judgemental family.
We follow Fuuka as she learns about the precious sea creatures she now must care for, making mistakes along the way, but slowly integrating herself into the gentle pace of Okinawan life. By working, she allows herself time to recover, to heal from her emotional trauma. Through various low-stakes escapades with Kukuru, they learn to support each other emotionally.
In the background grows the ever-present threat of the aquarium’s closure, and with a hard deadline set for the end of summer, Kukuru attempts to pull the other characters together to save the family business. Perhaps this central plot will result in more overt drama as the show progresses; it is planned for 24 episodes, after all.
The aquarium itself is borderline magical, with several characters experiencing what can only be described as transcendental moments when staring into the deep blue waters. There’s also a funny little red-haired guy running around who I think might be some kind of local deity. It’s unclear if anyone other than the viewer can actually see him or not.
As a slow-paced character study mixed with tourist-baiting travelogue, Aquatope is an easy show to lose time to. So far there’s been nothing too challenging or upsetting, and most conflicts have been resolved in humorous yet empathetic fashion. I’m unsure if the central relationship is heading towards romance — for the moment it could go either way. I fully intend to keep watching, even if it makes me ache to visit this clearly beautiful island more with each subsequent episode.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Doctorkev, hybridmink, Marquan, Protonstorm, Reikaze, TheMamaLuigi, umrguy42, Viking
Battle Game In 5 Seconds
Written by: Marquan
Genre: Action, Mystery, Supernatural
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, VRV
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Akira Shiroyanagi, a game-loving high schooler, is one of many participants brought together and gifted with otherworldly abilities. The reason? To participate in fights to test the scope and various applications of these abilities. Akira must get to the bottom of why he (and his competitors) were chosen, why they received the abilities they did, and what the endgame of this fighting competition is.
Why You Should Be Watching: Battle Game is Tournament Arc: The Anime; who will win each fight so they can go against the next competitor? That’s the foundation, but it’s not all this show has to offer. The cat-and-mouse-like game between Mion, the ringleader (pictured above), and Akira, who seems to be Mion’s favorite, is an early standout. Witnessing an intelligent and calculating main character attempt to devise plans in the brief 5 seconds you get prior to your abilities activating perfectly ramps up the tension.
The fights themselves are engaging because each character needs to figure out their enemies’ abilities alongside trying to come up with a counterattack to those abilities. You see everyone’s strengths and weaknesses during each fight while also learning their backstories via flashbacks. With that said, the show does focus on some characters more than others, which kind of tips its hand on who will be more important going forward. Battle Game won’t be winning any awards, nor is it groundbreaking in any areas, but what it does tackle, it tackles well.
We get a combination of great action and well-paced comedy, an ensemble of colorful if not somewhat archetypal characters, and an intriguing mystery; a solid show across the board. It does more than enough to keep you hooked and wanting to know what comes next for these characters every week. Akira is your typical “genius” main character who’s always analyzing things before acting; watching him try to figure out how to clear this “game” is something you’ll definitely want to tune in to follow.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Kinksy, Marquan, Requiem, TGRIP
The Case Study of Vanitas
Written by: Nior
Genre: Fantasy, Vampire, Supernatural
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Legend says “The Book of Vanitas” is a cursed grimoire created by the eponymous vampire who seeks to destroy the kind that scorned him due to the circumstances of his birth. In an alternate version of 19th-century Paris, a young man named Noé is on a quest to ascertain the book’s existence. After an unexpected attack from a vampire, he meets Vanitas, who turns out to be not only human but a doctor specializing in vampires. Inheriting both the name and the book, this Vanitas has a single goal: to save all vampirekind, whether they want it or not.
Why You Should Be Watching: Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Vanitas is a gorgeous show. With the expertise of Studio Bones, Tomoyuki Itamura — of Monogatari fame — in the director’s seat, and the fantastic designs of Jun Mochizuki, this anime is a feast for the eyes. Sweeping shots of the City of Light, the elegance of a ballroom, a field of blue flowers under the moonlight; Vanitas has no shortage of wallpaper-worthy frames. But then, these mundane elements share a spotlight with the fantastical, such as steampunk machines or the magical girl-esque visuals that accompany Vanita’s “medical” work, painting an image of Paris as familiar as it is impossible.
Setting and visuals alone aren’t why you should be watching — though they certainly help my case. No, what makes Vanitas work, and why I keep coming back to it, is the relationship between Noé and our titular doctor. You know how buddy cop shows have a pair of leads that contrast each other? That’s our main characters’ vibe. The two foil each other perfectly. Noé is naive, a little oblivious to the matters of the heart, and earnestly optimistic. His emotional baggage makes him sympathetic and gives a compelling motive to seek the “Book.” On the other hand, Vanitas is kind of an ass: loud, eccentric, and pretty much has no inhibition. You never quite know what he will do next, and his motives remain unclear, but he is steadfast in his convictions, and that makes his presence on screen infectious! It often puts him in confrontation with the rest of the cast, and needless to say, it’s very amusing to watch.
But as amusing as those moments are, there’s always darkness underlying the whole thing. The “bad boys” duo might drive the plot, but it’s the villain, Charlatan, who gives them a destination. Stopping them (it?) is the ultimate goal of our protagonists, but because Vanitas is also a tragedy — the first episode flat out tells us this at the very end — that road is also paved with sadness and sorrow. And as is the case with a good tragedy, knowing how it ends only makes it all the more intriguing.
In conclusion, this is a vampire show that doesn’t suck (pun intended and owned!).
Recommended by: Dark Aether, hybridmink, Koda, Marquan, Maxou, Nior, Requiem, Tenshigami, TGRIP
The Duke of Death and His Maid
Written by: Dark Aether
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Fantasy, Mystery, Drama
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “Can you imagine a life in which you could never touch the one you love?”
Such is the fate of one unfortunate soul who lost everything after being struck by a witch’s curse that kills all he touches. Forced into exile and abandoned by his family, this reclusive Duke finds a second chance in his faithful maid. But as their budding romance blossoms, reality sets in.
In search of a way to break the curse, they embark on a journey together. Will they find their happily ever after? Or will their love be forever out of reach?
Why You Should Be Watching: Though I’m regularly surrounded by a writer’s room filled with fans who have strong opinions on just about every romantic comedy imaginable, I think it’s safe to call it an acquired taste. Despite my lack of insight on the subgenre and its various flavors, some concepts are always universal: memorable characters, dynamic relationships, and compelling storytelling. These are but a few qualities I look for in these summaries, and for The Duke of Death and His Maid, it playfully dashed my expectations — before nearly killing me in the process!
As in many of the more recent romcoms that have been adapted to anime, Duke’s formula is less of a hypothetical “will they, won’t they” and more of a question of “when.” Cursed with the power to end the life of anything he touches, the titular Duke’s circumstances present a unique challenge in the often complex world of love stories — physical affection. Think of the many special moments with your loved ones: a handshake, a hug, a kiss. Now imagine never being able to experience that. Being robbed of the simple pleasures of touch, the Duke spends his days unable to physically reciprocate those tender moments, and it’s where Duke manages to find its own unique combination of chemistry and comedy in the main story.
Now, I should probably move on to the show’s other namesake. Despite the Duke’s gloomy expression and outbursts of doom (voiced by a busy Natsuki Hanae!), his attendant Alice (the spirited Ayumi Mano) plays the devoted servant and passionate-to-a-fault romantic interest. Though some may find the show’s initial flirting on the verge of sexual harassment — and I say this as someone who almost dropped the series — this is counterbalanced by not making it the focus or mean-spirited to the point where one character dominates as in similar titles. By quickly establishing where each party stands in the relationship at the beginning, Duke makes no question of their mutual love for each other as Alice slowly but surely drags the Duke from his reclusive shell into something resembling a genuine relationship.
Is The Duke of Death and His Maid the best non-teasing anime? Only time will tell, but from one grim but dapper individual to the other, there is no reason to fear this reaper’s touch. Plus, they can sing!
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Marquan, Requiem, TGRIP
The Dungeon of Black Company
Written by: TGRIP
Genre: Isekai, Black company Comedy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: 24 year old Kinji has reached the mountaintop. By shrewdly investing in the real estate market, he has retired and now calls himself “the ultimate NEET.” Living in a luxury apartment, he looks down on the rest of the world, content with realizing his life’s goal after years of hard work… only to be suddenly transported to a fantasy world. Carrying over nothing from his previous life, Kinji vows to re-achieve his carefree lifestyle, and despite now living in a world full of magic and monsters, he begins work at a company that feels all too similar to the uncaring corporations of our own real world…
Why You Should Be Watching: In a season once again packed with too many isekai and fantasy shows, Dungeon of Black Company sets itself apart with its intentionally against-type premise and by being a dark comedy that hits a little too close to home at times. From the start, Black Company lets you know that it’s an anti-isekai: instead of being a power fantasy for someone with little to no power in their original life, Kinji is someone who has everything already. Being transported feels like a karmic act of revenge instead of a second-chance and, given his dickish attitude, his fate feels appropriate. We’ve seen unlikable isekai protagonists before, but thanks to this being a comedy, we know that we’re not supposed to like Kinji or even feel for him. We’re here to watch him dig himself into deeper holes (both figurative and literal) in his attempt to get rich quick once again, and even when he succeeds, the trials he puts himself through are quite entertaining. Add to that a supporting cast ranging from sympathetic folks just trying to get by to pricks trying to climb the corporate ladder, Black Company’s larger cast gives the show plenty of opportunities for comedic gold.
Aside from the fun characters, the show’s unique tone also helps it out greatly, as it’s a comedy with a focus on the soul-crushing nature of working for a large company that gives no fucks about what happens to you. We know this is bad enough in our own life, but when that company sends people into literal dungeons to fight off monsters in the hopes of finding new resources? Not even Aggretsuko gets that bad. But this helps round out the show’s humor even more, as it has moments that, despite their absurdity, still manage to feel startlingly real, like one instance where Kinji unionizes a colony of giant ants to combat a queen that’s taken advantage of them (to save his own skin, of course… don’t ever think for a second he’s a “good guy”). Add in a superb dub that irons out the minor issues with the sub with performances that fit the show’s unserious tone a bit better, and Dungeon of Black Company is without question my choice for isekai of the season.
Recommended by: Alistair Hydde, hybridmink, TGRIP, Viking
Godzilla Singular Point
Written by: Maxou
Genre: Kaiju, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Set in 2030, Godzilla Singular Point follows the intertwining paths of AI prodigy Yun Arikawa and “Biologica fantastica” graduate student Mei Kamino, as they are both dragged into a quest to prevent mankind’s annihilation by an inexplicable red tide of monsters. Their quest starts in Chiba, Japan, where a mysterious radio signal prompts Yun, who works for a local repair company, and Mei, investigating on behalf of her university, to go on their worldwide journey. Against corporate conspiracies, ancient folklore, wacky quantum physics, and decade long secrets, Yun and Mei must battle through an increasingly dangerous world to find the truth of the signal, the red tide and the monsters. Will our heroes solve the singular point before a pandemonium engulfs the world?
Why You Should Be Watching: Godzilla Singular Point is before everything else a mystery show, starting with a weird signal our characters must investigate. The action (i.e. kaiju scenes) are intertwined with the respectives progress Yun and Mei make as the series advances. Every viewer will start the show expecting Godzilla and its associated kaiju buddies to show up rampaging, and Godzilla Singular Point does not hide its monsters, but deploys them cleverly so as to hempt the pressure our protagonists will face. Even knowing about the monsters does not really take anything from the experience, since most of them have been redesigned for the show. Kaiju nerds will rediscover some of the emblematic monsters under a new light or bemoan the lackluster CGI used for the beasts which, while making them appear alien, may indeed distract viewers too much from the action.
However, the show’s gorgeous, colorful visuals and great direction make up for the distracting CGI. Take the opening credits, which delivers awesome music as well as striking visuals, giving the series a unique kaiju-punk aesthetic from the get go. Aside from a few bland indoor environments, the series is visually attractive, the settings diverse and rich, and the action scenes dynamic, with a strong focus on the characters and their recognizable designs.
Godzilla Singular Point’s cast is indeed well developed beyond Yun and Mei, as they each sport their respective support, and the show presents these characters through different points of view, particularly during action scenes which all remain relevant to the plot as the show progresses. Godzilla Singular Point does not hold back when it plunges the cast along with the viewers to decipher abstract maths, AI programmation axioms, and highly theoretical physics (bordering on whimsical dialogues between the characters). Viewers may feel disentivized when having to go through heavy scientific dialogues (the Archetype plot point, much of it nonsense — or is it?), but shouldn’t, since the fun in Godzilla Singular Point is to see our merry band of nerds deal with this kaiju nonsense to fight back the big scary, toothy abominations roaming the show. Embrace the Godzilla science nonsense.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Kinksy, Koda, Maxou, Tenshigami, TGRIP
Written by: AoiYamamoto
Genre: Bishoujo, School Life, Musical, Drama
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: A former idol, Ai, decides to make a new start at an all female theatrical school after a run-in with a male fan. Her new roommate Sarasa is tall, loud, and determined to become an actor known for performing male roles, while Ai remains quiet, serious and sometimes cold and aloof. Can these two survive in the theater world and rise to the top?
Where to Watch: Funimation
Why You Should Be Watching: If you’re into music and theater or even Japan’s famed Takarazuka Revue, this is a much more grounded show than 2018’s Revue Starlight. Both shows showed the work that goes into becoming a performer, but Kageki Shoujo! goes one step further by exploring such themes as eating disorders, stalking, and sexual assault. Where other shows would make light of these situations, KS! handles these issues in a more considered manner without being too preachy.
There’s also our two main leads, Ai and Sarasa. The latter boldly declares what her intentions are in the first episode: To play Oscar in Kouka’s version of Rose of Versailles. Ai decides to go to Kouka after a scary encounter with a male fan. However, her uneasiness with men dates even further than that to an incident with one of her mother’s boyfriends when she was a child.
And as for Sarasa…she’s an absolute delight!
She’s tall and goofy; she’s also talented, but as of now, hasn’t truly utilized her talent yet. Her classmates note her gift when she perfectly imitates the star of one of Kouka’s previous plays; her teachers realize that she does have huge potential. She’s also got an interesting backstory in kabuki, which I don’t want to spoil.
I like that Kageki Shoujo isn’t just some glitzy and over-the-top version of what a theatrical school can be like other series that are set in musical worlds. I admit, I’m also drawn to all of the characters. Yes, there are some campy situations; this is an anime afterall. However, those looking for something a bit more grounded would like this show. Yuri fans will also enjoy the chemistry between the two leads; there’s also the rest of the cast that’s also shippable as well.
Recommended by: Aoi Yamamoto, Dark Aether, Gugsy, hybridmink, Koda, Marquan, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi
Peach Boy Riverside
Written By: Viking
Genre: Fantasy, Shounen, Adventure
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Peach Boy Riverside is heavily inspired by Momotarō, the folktale of a boy born from a giant peach who slays ogres and befriends a bunch of talking animals. What if that peach was just one of many? This version of the classic tale takes place in a fantasy world in which ogres want to destroy humans for defiling the world.
Why You Should Be Watching: As the show is essentially a version of Momotarō, we know what to expect — a lot of ogre slaying! The action is good, but it’s the cast of characters that make it truly worth watching.
Sally, a former princess out exploring the world on her own, is our main character. Sally has a touch of the “peach boy” in her, as when she’s near an ogre a peach shines from her right eye and she goes into an ecstatic slaying mode. She’s joined by Frau, the true star of the show. Frau is a demi-human, specifically a harefolk, who inexplicably wears a sailor-style school uniform and a long scarf and carries a massive wooden mallet. Frau follows Sally due to “carrot-debt” (Sally gave her a carrot to stave off starvation). The two quickly form a bond, and their interactions are fantastic. Despite having a simplistic look, with her scarf often covering her lower face, Frau is amazingly expressive. Her eyes and blush tell so much of what’s going on in her mind. It’s a joy to watch her get excited over a carrot or deliver a kick (to an ogre, jail cell door, or a person) with precisely the amount of force needed.
The supporting characters include Meki, a mildly tsundere ogre who falls in with Sally and Frau. Next is Hawthorn, a commander of the kingdom of Rimdale’s knights, who helps ground the cast. Finally, we have Mikoto, the show’s actual Peach Boy. His hatred of ogres is unflinching, but even he begins to look at things a bit differently. It’s a nice twist on the traditional tale.
As wonderful as the characters are, this show has a serious problem. The director made the controversial decision to re-order the show’s episodes. This initially worked, as the first broadcast episode began with Sally meeting Frau, but it fell apart rather quickly. For me, this led to spending the first 5 minutes of any given episode wondering exactly when things were happening. This non-linear storytelling may work for a lot of viewers, but I find it hampering my enjoyment of the show. I still love the characters and am invested in the basic story, but I think it may be worthwhile to wait until the end of the season and watch the episodes in the story’s chronological order.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Doctorkev, Kinksy, Marquan, Reikaze, Requiem
Written by: Alistair Hyde
Genre: Sports, School, Slice of Life, Drama
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: An anime about a popular sport called water polo, directed by Kiyoshi Matsuda, written by Masafumi Nishida, and animated by MAPPA. This anime gives a new spin to the underdog team dynamic by discarding the journey of a prodigy that will crush every opponent in favor of a person living a jamais vu, the experience of being unfamiliar with a person or situation that is actually very familiar. This happens to Minato, our protagonist, who forgets the last three years of his life after recovering from a coma and being motivated by the people around him to play water polo again with a team full of rookies, all with the tension of having to pay a bet with a ridiculous amount of money.
Why You Should Be Watching: Re-Main challenges the classic formula of sports anime with contrasts and coincidences that collide with each other within a slow burn that eventually pays off our patience as an audience.
The first impression comes from the opening song by k-pop band Enhypen, a contrasting correlation of cheerful instrumentation, lyrics, and plot. This is also highlighted in the animation with the dramatic color changes in the opening, fluid movement sequences, nice water effects, and visuals that are logical and palpable, recreating the experience of entering into a pool with immersive sound effects as close as possible to the real deal.
Every character is endearing and distinguishable, with various personality traits and healthy dynamics developed logically within the groups shown to the viewer: families, schoolmates, and teams, the first being especially rare with the parents of the protagonist considering they are usually horrible people. It is clear they have hidden motives while interacting with Minato, making them interesting enough to look at what they are pursuing. For example, Chinu is more than a love interest and actually drives Minato to go forward into his original path by pushing him to pay a bet, but there might be more than meets the eye as she begins to seem displeased with how Minato is taking the experience.
The plot develops the topic of self-improvement by exploring the concepts of amore fati (love of fate) and with healthy doses of drama, all while avoiding stereotypes that have plagued sports anime in the past by making them melodramatic, cheesy, or soap opera-esque. This happens by giving amnesia to Minato for him to question and confront his now strange past by reliving everything that made him one of the most recognized middle school water polo players. By resuming the objectives of his former self and facing a different obstacle every step of the way, he gets to know himself better, redefines what the sport represents in his life after the accident, and rediscovers what drives him. Eventually, Minato will solve the conflicts that left him and his family stuck in the past and maybe even find out something unexpected about his former self.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Marquan, Maxou
Remake Our Life!
Written By: TheMamaLuigi
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama, Comedy, Coming of Age
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Kyouya Hashiba is a down-on-his-luck office worker, recently let go from an internship at a high-profile video game studio. Our protagonist, with both his career and dreams shattered, is now bitter, despondent, and adrift — that is until he suddenly wakes up ten years in the past. Given the chance for a do-over, Kyoua decides to attend a prestigious art university, where he meets and comes to live with Aki Shino, Nanako Kogure, and Tsurayuki Rekuonji, fellow creators each talented in their own right. As their bonds deepen, so too does the scope of their projects and their aspirations as artists — there’s no time to waste in the remaking of one’s life.
Why You Should Be Watching: Narratives of remaking dominate contemporary anime discourses. From genuine “age transformation” shows like ReLIFE and Tokyo Revengers to the ongoing isekai boom, anime, manga, and light novels enamour themselves with notions of becoming oneself again. Remake Our Life! is special in how it doesn’t try to re-invent or deconstruct these notions; rather, its deft understanding of what makes the idea of starting over so intoxicating and its authentic characters and writing solidify it as one of 2021’s best shows.
Kyouya is a protagonist equal parts empathetic in his plight and emblematic in his actions. He garners our support through his immediate understanding of the gift granted to him and the actions he takes to make the most of it. We’re over halfway through the season and already his growth and development as a character, as a person, and as an artist attest to the power of redo stories to symbolize how we overcome our own nadirs. We aren’t all afforded the opportunity to start from scratch, but we can all learn from our mistakes to impact our present.
In this way, Remake crafts a narrative of growth, of change, and of the harsh lessons we all face on our journey to becoming. The other three main cast members play as crucial of a role in that narrative as Kyouya himself, particularly Nanako. Her ongoing discovery of her self-worth, the price of beauty, and the pains of unrequited love exemplify the crucible that is college for many young people. Tsurayuki and Aki, too, play a part in this larger story; though, I do think that Shinoaki’s lack of development beyond a few key traits robs her of any likeability or empathy. A genetically engineered waifu, if you will.
What most strikes me about Remake, though, is its filmic qualities in both its narrative and its creation. Our core four’s school projects center around film production; thus, the show mirrors the processes involved in creating film art with our cast’s growth as people. Creating a movie is a messy, complicated affair — nothing will happen exactly as planned, and that’s the joy of it. We, too, exist in a state of unknowing. Life is improv, say “yes, and.” Paired with its acknowledgement of being an anime — fan service and slapstick are not uncommon — and Remake founds itself on a level of genuineness both well-wrought and utterly captivating.
TL;DR: Sensitive in its treatment of its characters (besides Shinoaki) and intelligent in its construction, Remake Our Life! asserts itself as an instant classic, one of the best anime of the year, and a reminder that, even though we can’t all travel to the past, we can all, in our own ways, begin again.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Doctorkev, Marquan, Protonstorm, Reikaze, Requiem, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: Reikaze
Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Character Drama, Super Power
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A group of students from Nagara’s high school find themselves whisked away to a bizarre dimension where only the school exists in a black void. Along with this departure from our reality comes superpowers that differ for every student and a need to create some kind of society. What ensues is a story of trying to find out why this happened, how to get home, and if they should even try to go back.
Why You Should Be Watching: Oftentimes, nostalgia is a double edged sword: in the process of trying to make something that echoes the past, works often end up being rather derivative. Sonny Boy avoids this trap by being the best kind of nostalgic work: giving off the impression of that time instead of imitating works in that era.
This starts with the show’s aesthetic design, which feels almost out of place for anime. It has a bright, city pop design that screams the 90s with its sharp color choices that makes the world look and feel idyllic yet also alien. Along with the stark design of the setting, this aesthetic helps set in the feeling of surrealism, a choice that really enhances the feeling of being lost in a bizarre world. It’s one of the most unique vibes I’ve seen in anime, and it immediately drew me into the show. Add in the character designs from Hisashi Eguchi of Perfect Blue fame and the brilliant Madhouse production that echoes their golden era and it’s hard not to get the impression of a serious late 90’s to early 2000’s anime, but one that paves its own path.
While its aesthetic draws you in, what keeps you watching Sonny Boy is the mystery and character drama that the show pulls off. Its premise is Lord of the Flies-esque, and while the show doesn’t really use its premise to make many bold claims about society, Sonny Boy still makes the most of it by exploring the nature of a collective group while also occasionally using the setting to focus and develop individual cast members. With a cast of many strong personalities and main characters who have great banter, as a character drama, Sonny Boy manages to be really engaging and interesting throughout.
A competent and compelling mystery is one of the quickest ways into my heart, and Sonny Boy nails that notion. The way the show unravels its scenario bit by bit, yet somehow always manages to keep the twists exciting, makes every episode extremely satisfying to watch. In addition, the pacing and tone of the story are excellent, making it one of the most compelling storytelling experiences of the season. Watching Sonny Boy reminds me of my favorite anime from back in the day and all these attributes make it one of the most unique shows anime has to offer.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Dark Aether, hybridmink, Maxou, Nior, Reikaze, TGRIP
Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy
Written by: Requiem
Genre(s): Isekai, Fantasy, Spider Women
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Makoto Misumi is a fairly normal teenager, although he’s long felt somewhat out of place as a moderately plain looking normie in a family of good-looking overachievers. Suddenly, he meets Tsukiyomi (Shinto god of the moon), and it turns out his parents are from another world! Then he gets summoned to the other world! Pretty cool, right? Oh, wait, turns out the goddess of this new world thinks he’s too ugly to be a hero, so he gets dropkicked to the wastelands at the ends of the world with no mission and only the “power” to communicate in the speech of any race — except humans. Not ideal, indeed. Hope Tsukiyomi steps in to give him powers and it turns out he’s technically extremely well-endowed (magically). Then maybe he can meet, say, 2 cute girls that are also a dragon and giant spider, respectively? Then he can go on ridiculous adventures. That sounds good, right?
Why You Should Be Watching: The isekai genre, as a whole, has reached a point of saturation in anime that its begun to get a rap of being just a bloated mass of samey male power fantasies set in cookie-cutter worlds. But one should not dismiss a show simply because it follows a familiar formula. That’s like turning down a piece of chocolate cake because you’re just so done with chocolate cake; if you just assume all the chocolate cakes are the same, you’re gonna miss the one with the awesome cream filling. Such is Tsukimichi: the tried and true formula, just different enough to make it delectable.
In all honesty, Tsukimichi does not reinvent or deconstruct the genre. What it does is execute the formula at a very high level; sure it’s another chocolate cake, but it’s a delicious one. The show’s shining core is its main characters and their relationships: our OP but relatable MC Makoto, who stands apart from many isekai protagonists by not being a dick or a sexual predator; Tomoe, the dragon in human form who’s obsessed with the period samurai dramas she saw in Makoto’s head and so insists on referring to herself as ‘mineself’ and running off to go ronin; and Mio, who was a giant spider wreaking havoc until she decided hanging with Makoto would be more fun. Tomoe and Mio are just fantastically ridiculous, and watching Makoto try to rein them in before they, say, turn a simple rescue mission into the leveling of an entire small town, is just a really good time. There’s also adorable orc Emma, who has little power and yet can be the most commanding of all. Freed from the typical “save the world” plot but more active than the isekai that have their MCs run a drug store or a restaurant, Tsukimichi finds its own groove; it’s really more of a wacky family comedy than an adventure show — it’s just the family is completely nuts. All we’re saying is any show with a spider woman who’s hooked on tokusatsu or who names a character Lime Latte with a straight face has to be worth a shot, right?
So, friends, come sit down at the table of anime, grab a big piece of Tsukimichi, and dig in.
Req-commended by: Kinksy, Marquan, Requiem
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:
- Alistair Hyde
- Aoi Yamato
- Dark Aether
- Hip Hip Jorge
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