You may have recently heard that one of the United States’ first confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was reportedly a man who visited Anime NYC 2021. Clearly, this article series is needed more than ever. Why get sick with a deadly global pathogen when you could be watching the best anime of the season from the safety of your own home?
Our list this season is quite large. Either fall 2021 has proved to be a remarkable season, or AniTAY has bad taste in anime. Perhaps both of these things are simultaneously true. Whatever the case, I can say with confidence that our selections are a culmination of weeks of debate between authors of many different backgrounds and nationalities. In this sense, the wide variety of tastes should come as no surprise to anyone. If you are unsure of where to start this season, then this is about as comprehensive of a recommendation guide as you will find anywhere.
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 fall 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.
The Fall 2021 AniTAY Sequel Guide
There are lots of major sequels this anime season, perhaps too many to watch them all. Check out our recommendation…
Without further ado, I present to you the latest and greatest anime of fall 2021!
Written by: Max
Genre(s): Drama, Slice of Life, Coming of age
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Yatora Yaguchi is a gifted but adrift high school student. He seeks a higher calling while trying to sustain his good grades, his late night drinking with his friends, as well as the expectations of his parents. One day while walking back from a night out, Yaguchi witnesses the sunrise in Shibuya.The sunlit visage fascinates him and a flame is lit within him. This event compels the inexperienced Yaguchi to throw himself into art to capture the sight of that fascinating dawn. From his high school art club to the entrance exam for the Tokyo University of Arts, Yaguchi will have to hone his drawing and painting skills into walking the path of the aspiring artist.
Why You Should Be Watching: Blue Period is an anime about making art. However, art-making is mostly a vector for illustrating the idea of growing into your own. This series starts as another high school drama, quickly transitioning into an analysis of the hardships and joys shared by Yaguchi and his fellow teenagers in their affirmation as artists. The stakes feel incredibly relatable, thanks to the writing and characterizations. The dialogues between characters build up most of the progress and conflicts of the series, but the introspection Yaguchi goes through is what truly gives layers to the series’ main struggles. Choosing your own path against your parents, defining your own expectation against your peers, shaping your own styles against the conventions…For anyone who felt at a crossroad during high school, Yaguchi’s inner monologue will strike a chord; all the more so if your prospects (art or otherwise) were decided by competitive exams.
And competition there is! Blue Period’s would-be-artists are pitted against each other. Yet the show opts for a more laid-back approach (as stressed in our full review), distilling glimpses of artistic angst, and sometimes pretty dark moments — for example the toll of competition on mental and physical health — with the more fulfilling camaraderie Yaguchi and his friends develop. The series overall doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of doing what’s needed to reach your goal. Yaguchi’s challenge is, however, imbued with courage and a relatable sense of determination, again thanks to the clear way the characters express themselves.
Finally, Blue Period is a decent anime about art! Techniques, compositions, colors, styles — the show does not back down from immersing us in the nitty gritty of producing art. Although light on art history despite the title’s obvious reference to Picasso, Blue Period excels in showing us how ideas and emotional triggers shape the creative process. Through the episodes, we follow Yaguchi’s evolution as an artist in comprehensible terms, from his first sketches with a pen to more advanced reflections on how to compose a painting and harness colors. And because the art follows the evolution of the characters, we are further drawn into the process and the action. That’s an impressive feat when the action is fought with brushes and charcoal pens.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, hybridmink, Max, Protonstorm, TGRIP, Alistair Hyde
Digimon: Ghost Game
Written by: Arcane
Genre(s): Children’s, Action, Slice of Life, Horror
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In the Japan of the future, holograms of all kinds have become a part of daily life: from advertisements, to movies, and even acting as public servants. However, rumors and folktales have spread regarding the existence of “Hologram Ghosts”, sentient creatures that can affect the real world and do harm to everyday people. Hiro Amanokawa is dragged into investigating one such phenomenon by a friend, only to end up drawn into a strange otherworld…
Why You Should Be Watching: While last year’s Digimon Adventure reboot started strong but quickly descended into thudding mediocrity, Ghost Game does as much as it can to set itself firmly apart from what we’ve seen before. In style and theme, it mostly resembles the franchise’s high-water mark Digimon Tamers. However, where Tamers dealt with heavy and existential horror, Ghost Game plays off of things that children this age are actually afraid of.
For an adult, the elements of children’s horror end up adding spice to a property that has been mostly uninterested in evolving for almost fifteen years, while also being the perfect place for anyone without prior knowledge to jump in. Ghost Game exists in an entirely separate continuity from any other Digimon show, with no shared characters but a lot of excellently-written new ones.
Many shows of this nature, Digimon included, tend to give priority to characterizing the human cast, but the reduced numbers here (only featuring three kids and three partners in the main cast) give Ghost Game plenty of time to make the partner Digimon some of the most fleshed-out and adorable across the franchise. Rather than describing the details of how and why this means you should watch, part of me wanted to just insert a series of GIFs of new mascot Gammamon being the cutest damn thing, because frankly that’s as convincing.
All of that being said, if you’re totally new to Digimon and are going in totally blind, what Ghost Game offers is one of the most mature, intelligently-written kids’ anime in recent memory. The real test of a show aimed at this demographic is whether an adult can watch and enjoy without making too many concessions in their standards, and so far, Ghost Game has been nothing but an enjoyable ride, with the family or by myself.
Recommended by: Arcane, Alistair Hyde, TGRIP
The Faraway Paladin
Written by: Marquan
Genre(s): Fantasy, Isekai, Mystery, Adventure
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll/VRV
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Will is a human born in the city of the dead, raised by Blood, Mary, and Gus. These three undead teach him combat skills, magic and religion, respectively. As he gets older, he learns more about the world at large, including what love means and the danger that awaits him outside the walls of his home. With the help of his makeshift family, he trains until he is ready to venture out into the big unknown.
Why You Should Be Watching: In the constant flood of isekai that has washed over the anime community, there are always at least one or two gems every season. The Faraway Paladin is one of those. We get to experience masterful world-building set in a destroyed and abandoned city with a dark history, replete with a complex pantheon that blesses and curses their followers, and a greater, mysterious realm Will must learn to navigate. We’re drip-fed bits of lore and character backstory throughout the show, and it only adds to the satisfaction Will and the viewer feels when he accomplishes a deed, or discovers a family secret.
There’s something magical, no pun intended, about getting to experience a unique magic system and watching Will deduce worthwhile battle strategies and who the numerous gods and goddesses are. Once a god makes their presence known, there’s no question of how powerful they are, and it shows. While The Faraway Paladin isn’t exactly action-heavy, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t deliver when it comes to its characters. No one feels like they fit into a singular mold, and the series radiates the care the characters show for one another, only enhancing the empathy the audience has for them in turn. That only makes the emotional moments hit that much harder. If you want great characters, a fascinating plot and world and some pretty decent music? Well, look no further than The Faraway Paladin.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Marquan, Protonstorm, Requiem, Stínolez, Tenshigami, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, Thatsmapizza
Written by: Dark Aether
Genre(s): Mecha, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In an alternate 2019, the once prosperous nation of Japan has been conquered by a parallel militaristic version of itself. Using their advanced tech and colossal “Garrans,” the invaders quickly cement their place as the new government, wiping away the nation’s former history, culture, and identity to install their one “true” Japan.
Ten years after the invasion, Hosomichi Kudō is a male hostess working to climb out of debt. He is seemingly uninterested in the past, the current war being waged, or other people. Kudō wanders aimlessly until the fight shows up at his front door in the form of a rag-tag team of otaku, misfits, and other assorted nerds who have watched far too much mecha anime. Coerced into joining the resistance, can this cynical playboy work past his demons and rekindle his former passion, or will his new comrades push him off the deep end and into greater debt?
When fantasy and truth collide, anything is possible!
Why You Should Be Watching: Since it was announced their next project would be entirely original, I’ve been eagerly waiting to see what Lerche was working on having produced several of my favorite anime in the last few years. Despite knowing next to nothing about their new title, to say this was my most anticipated project this season would be a massive understatement. Friends, I was beyond ecstatic! So much so, that when it finally came time to start writing this preview, only then did the reality of what I had signed up for start to sink in: What the hell is Rumble Garanndoll?
On paper, it’s a concept that should not exist. It pulls ideas from a multitude of shows (mecha, idols, sentai, military, you name it!), yet it’s all held together by much of the same glue found in Lerche’s previous works: strong characters brimming with personality and deep interpersonal relationships. Not unlike the way Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun played with occultic elements and playful romance, or how the latest season of Radiant re-examined the thin line between human and monster/hero and villain, Garanndoll takes the basic idea of “fantasy versus truth” as a starting point before expanding upon it in greater depth with each new character introduction.
Hosomichi, for example, is intentionally misplaced in the world of Garanndoll as the anti-Evangelion protagonist. Realistic to a fault, mature for his age, and unabashed about his views, his involvement in the story is equal parts satire and an introspective look at someone who grew up a little too quickly after falling in with the wrong crowd. Rin Akagi, on the other hand, plays the starry-eyed, superhero-obsessed partner with an equally strong sense of justice. Their initial friction and the inevitable resolution to the interpersonal conflict serve as an introduction for what’s to come later. Their relationship also conveys a surprisingly heartwarming message about pursuing one’s creative passions.
In a season already jam packed with excellent mech shows, Rumble Garanndoll stands out through its over the top self-awareness and lighthearted undertones celebrating the burning creativity of the medium. Sure, it may lack the dark and gritty human drama of 86, the awesome father-daughter dynamics of SAKUGAN, or whatever AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline is supposed to be, but its enthusiasm for all things pop culture, and obsession with the weirder side of fandom, is unrivaled. In today’s post-pandemic world, I think I speak for everyone in saying we could all use a little more fun these days.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Requiem, Tenshigami, TGRIP
The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!
Written By: TheMamaLuigi
Genre(s): Comedy, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Jahy, the fearsome second-in-command ruler of the Demon Realm, is transported to the human world after her defeat at the hands of a heroic magical girl. Now, powerless and left in a childlike appearance, she must find and gather as many mana crystals as she can to restore her powers and return to her rightful place as the Demon Realm’s (almost) ruler. But first: she needs to survive this month’s rent!
Why You Should Be Watching: What’s most remarkable to me about The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! is how it successfully manages to circumvent the meanspiritedness that a show of its ilk — in which the protagonist is also the primary comedic punching bag — could easily fall into. Sure, Jahy is frequently and consistently the butt of many, many jokes — she cries at least once an episode. But the show also takes great care to ensure that she achieves those small victories that carry us through life. Those moments are, ultimately, what define Jahy as something memorable: at its core, it’s a show about the ways, moments, and people that make life worth living, that make the hard times worth it.
It is in the moments between the slapstick comedy where Jahy really comes into its own. One episode sees Jahy searching a nearby forest for mana crystals. Chaos ensues as she runs into all manner of trouble, from rogue crows to tripping on roots to just generally having a bad time. Then, she meets a little girl, Kokoro, who helps her search. They come up empty, but Kokoro finds something even better: a four-leaf clover. Not only does this kind gesture shock Jahy, but it genuinely moves her. For someone as down-on-her-luck as she is, it is this little girl’s extended hand and the gracious gift inside that, ever so slowly, thaws the second-in-command’s Demon heart.
Jahy is full of these moments. The landlady who pesters Jahy for her rent but never evicts her and the bar manager who employs Jahy and acts as a pseudo-older sister for her both reinforce the show’s core theme of how we’re all in this together. We survive through each other; we build ourselves atop the supports that others make. Really, that’s what Jahy is about — the second-in-command Demon Lord coming to see that we’re all the same. We all need each other. Especially when our mana runs out and we can’t reach the top shelf at the grocery store.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, TheMamaLuigi, Requiem, umrguy42, Thatsmapizza
The Heike Story
Written by: hybridmink
Genre(s): Historical Drama
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: A clan known as the Heike controls much of Japan and relishes in the power they hold over the people. A girl named Biwa comes into contact with said clan and witnesses their gradual downfall over a series of hubris-laden events. Biwa’s special power allows her to experience their sorrow and regret, but she can do nothing to help them.
Why You Should Be Watching: We all enjoy the comeuppance of a villain and seeing corruption rooted out by way of righteous justice. The Heike Story is entirely that; however, there are no heroes. Humans lavish their entitled lives at the expense of others, and they suffer for it. The Heike punish those that oppose them and instigate needless battles to prove their supremacy. Biwa can see how this hubris leads to their downfall, but can do nothing to stop it. Despite having good reason to wish for it, she finds a father figure in Shigemori, the only truly honorable person in the family. From there, she begins to understand and grow alongside them.
As pride begets sorrow and regret, some of the Heike perish in battle, take their own lives, or simply pray for gods to do it for them. Biwa is our proxy as we both go through the motions of wanting these people to be punished, but still feeling pity or even caring for some of them. The Heike Story pulled me in with its exaggerated personalities that might feel like your typical bad guys, but ultimately turn out to be flawed human beings who simply care about their family. It’s difficult to talk about specifics without spoiling anything, but it’s safe to say that the Taira clan experiences a wealth of misfortune and tragedy.
As the series progresses, the focus changes from the clan trying to maintain its power to merely surviving.. Visual styles shift as a biwa (instrument) is played and we are treated to what appears to be direct lines from the original story, which accentuates the atmosphere of a chronicled demise. I find the quick pace keeps the show from dragging and the music sets the tone for where it is headed.
Some have said that the lack of understanding of the original tale of the Heike has kept them from watching this series. I can safely say that this story can be enjoyed without any kind of prior knowledge. While there may be times when you are tasked with remembering the names of characters that we don’t see very often, their emotions come through with an incredible voice cast and beautiful animation.
Tragedy and war crimes aside, The Heike Story still has its share of levity, and many characters are genuinely likable. If you’re a fan of feudal Japanese tales and love stories that give agency to the people, this might be the story for you.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, hybridmink, Protonstorm, Tenshigami, Thatsampizza
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre(s): Alternate HIstory, Science Fiction, Military, Romance
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: It is 1957 in alternate history post-WWII Russia (the “USZR”). The Space Race proceeds with the USZR and the UK (alternative USA) competing by sending animals into space, collecting data to perfect rockets that can safely transport human beings into orbit. Wary of sacrificing a precious human cosmonaut on the first “manned” orbital mission, the young vampire Irina Luminesk is selected as a sentient guinea pig. We follow her progress through rigorous training, while she endures dehumanising prejudice and abuse from the human members of society.
Why You Should Be Watching: Was there a child who grew up in the 1960s, 70s or 80s who didn’t dream of becoming an astronaut? I know I did. Then the Challenger Disaster occurred, and the world watched in real-time as a once-hopeful launch disintegrated to explosive tragedy. It’s hard to truly communicate the horror and confusion of that moment, as dreams were dashed and all seven crew members perished.
Space tragedies weren’t always so public. In 1957 in our world, when Russia launched its first animal — the dog Laika — into orbit, they made no preparation for safe re-entry. Although she orbited the planet for seven days, she expired within the first few hours from overheating. Even if she had survived, the plan was to euthanise her with poison before returning. This information was not released until 2002.
Irina’s setting fully integrates this culture of secrecy. In Irina’s world, vampires are a hated ethnic minority, unjustly blamed for spreading disease. With most of her race exterminated, for some reason she has agreed to become the first cosmonaut. As a non-human, she is expendable, and even if she reaches orbit, there is no guarantee she will return. Even if she does, she may be killed, her usefulness expired.
Our main human POV character is Lev Leps, an idealistic and compassionate cosmonaut candidate, recently demoted due to insubordination. He is assigned to “The Nosferatu Project”, tasked with overseeing Irina’s brutally punishing training, but is unable to view her as an inhuman asset. Slowly, his relationship with the somewhat tsundere Irina warms into mutually respectful friendship, with hints of underlying romance.
With exhaustively researched real-world science, Irina constructs a believable, methodical story about the rigours, traumas and strong emotions of 1950s cosmonaut training. The racism angle gives it some extra bite, and although she is a vampire, any supernatural aspects are kept to an absolute minimum. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a purple-haired human being with pointy ears and prominent teeth.
The closest anime equivalent I can think of would be The Wings of Honneamise, with its detailed training arc and background political drama. Irina doesn’t boast such jaw-dropping animation, but the rocket CGI is clean and functional, and the character designs are attractive. Wintertime Russia is well-depicted. If you don’t mind slow-burning, deliberately-paced anime, consider joining Irina on her journey into space.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Requiem, Stínolez, Alistair Hyde.
Komi-san Can’t Communicate
Written by: Gugsy
Genre(s): Comedy, Slice of Life
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Hitohito Tadano is an ordinary guy, trying to keep his head down and blend in with everyone else in his new highschool. That quickly proves to be a complete failure when he finds himself sitting next to the most beautiful girl in the whole school, Shouko Komi, which brings the ire of everyone in his class. Unknown to anyone else is that Komi has crippling social anxiety and what passes as cool aloofness is actually her struggling to socialize with anyone and everyone. Through coincidence, Tadano and Komi find a way to have a conversation by writing on the school blackboard, which is how Tadano learns of Komi’s problem. Komi shares how she wants to make one hundred friends while in school, and Tadano offers to help her, thereby becoming Komi’s first friend.
Why You Should Be Watching: First, the puns: nearly every character is named after their one exaggerated character trait. Komi is obviously a play on Communication, Hitohito Tadano can be translated as “Just Another Guy”, and so on and so forth with almost every character in the show. And what a zany cast of characters we have here who bounce off of our main duo with their extremes. They help to keep Komi-san to be briskly paced so that its comedy does not grow old too quickly.
However, Komi-san also excels in its quiet moments. Komi herself has two distinct art styles to illustrate that tonal juxtaposition: there’s the gorgeous, yet aloof stone-cold beauty, but there is also the wide-eyed nervous dork who just wants to have some normal fun times with friends. Likewise, while Tadano may be just another unassuming guy like — Just Another Guy you’ve seen in many other anime, it’s his earnestness and willingness to help Komi that brings out its best and most feel-good scenes. These are what manage to counterbalance the craziness that’s happening everywhere else.
These calmer interludes are also where the most level of care and detail are given both visually and musically, so that they can have the power that those moments deserve. As social anxiety is a thing that many people struggle with, it’s important for the intimacy of the central relationship to feel relatable and not be overpowered by the silliness happening elsewhere. Komi-san manages to strike this balance wonderfully.
Another point in its favor is the voice acting, specifically of Komi. It should be darn near impossible to perform a character whose 99% of their lines are stutters, gasps and other minute noises, but Komi’s VA, Aoi Koga, sells it completely and manages to give her a charm that makes her both endearing and easy to root for. Komi-san will have you laughing a mile a minute, but will also have you rooting for this cute dork to just have a normal school life with her impossibly abnormal classmates.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, Gugsy, hybridmink, Tenshigami
Written by: Thatsmapizza
Genre(s): Slice of Life, Horror, Comedy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: What if you could suddenly see ghosts? This is the question that Miko must contend with because one day she starts these spooks throughout her daily life. It’s unknown what these spectres will do, so Miko decides to act as if these ghosts aren’t there in case they’re violent; to horrifying and sometimes hilarious results.
Why you should be watching: Mieruko-chan is a unique fusion of horror and comedy that balances both these genres to make a funny yet compelling concoction.
Mieruko-Chan seems like a horror show in the vein of a Junji Ito series with its terrifying ghost designs. However, the show subverts its horror by having its lead character Miko trying her best to ignore these ghosts like a passenger trying to ignore a drunk person on a bus. This leads to some absurd situations where Miko must balance interacting with people around her, while also trying to evade the attention of a ghost. For example, Miko is forced to confront a ghost after a man (who the ghost is haunting) tries to hit on her. The specter seems like it’s ready to pounce on Miko, but Miko redirects its attention to her phone ,which reveals that she’s a fan of wrestling. where This creative ploy somehow works, and the ghost returns to haunting its initial target. Mieruko-Chan uses normal actions to turn the horror scenes it sets up into a punchline that will get a laugh out of you. The show revels in this kind of misdirection to create some fun jokes, but it also uses this misdirection for much more.
Gradually, Mieruko-chan leans into its horror roots after lulling the audience into a false sense of security. The show uses a Lovecraft style of horror where the main character’s perspective on their world is fundamentally changed, leaving them isolated from their peers. Miko experiences this existential horror as encountering ghosts increasingly becomes part of her regular routine. It worsens until she even mistakes a human for a ghost in one episode. Miko constantly needs to walk a fine line to not attract the attention of any ghost to herself or her friends in case a ghost is violent. With Miko’s unique sight, doing something as simple as riding a bus can be dangerous.
Mieruko-Chan threads the line between many different genres to make its audience burst out laughing, tremble with terror, and consider the implications of seeing the dead. If you’re looking for something fun and unique, I can’t recommend this show enough.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, thatsmapizza, Requiem, Max
Muteking The Dancing Hero
Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Octopus Related Heroism
Written by: Requiem
Where to Watch: Funimation
Synopsis: A boy named Muteki moves to Neo San Francisco and is immediately caught up in shenanigans. Imagine a candy colored version of what San Francisco would look like whilst you were on acid and that would be the exactly right sort of setting for Muteking The Dancing Hero’s delirious mayhem. Muteki befriends a man named DJ, a.k.a. DJ, who is a…DJ. DJ can inexplicably use a boombox/turntable to transform Muteki into Muteking, the dancing hero. He does this, probably, to fight the machinations and minions of the evil company OctinQ, whose evil CEO — named Ceo — is plotting to turn people into black sludge using evil schemes and products like tacos and cellphones. Presumably he wants to take over the world. If you’re looking for more details you’ve come to the wrong show. All that’s important to know is, are you dancing?
Why You Should Be Watching: Readers, perhaps you, being good law-abiding people, have never partaken in hallucinogens. If you have not, but you are curious as to what the experience is like, consider watching the first episode of Muteking. It comes at you at a 100 miles per hour from the jump and never slows down or bothers to explain itself. Why does the girl at the diner keep giving Muteki an ice cream soda no matter what he actually ordered? No idea! Why does nobody notice the evil Taco Tacos restaurant’s food is black and evil? Not sure! Why are Muteki’s friends at the rundown arcade colored blue and green and pink when most characters have normal skin tones? Beats me! Just lean back and watch our boy turn into a roller skating tokusatsu hero who defeats enemies using song and dance.
Although, this is not entirely a “turn off your brain” show. Sure, it’s wacky and weird, refuses to explain every detail to the audience, and it’s more colorful than a Twister mat wrapped around a kaleidoscope. Beneath the surface, however, the show contains themes about conformity, the overreach of corporations, and the dangers of a consumerist culture. That’s all there, mostly in subtext, if you wish to look that deep. That said, the show works fine as just a cheesy breezy blast of nonsense and colors if that’s what you want. It can engage viewers at multiple levels.
It’s true Muteking may not be for everyone; some may become frustrated by the loose, simple plot and the lack of closure on some details (somehow Muteki doesn’t know his dad was Mayor, for example). It can also be hard to connect with the cast beyond Muteki himself, as his relationships with the other characters are so damn odd. DJ the disc jockey is intentionally a cypher, a mystery to Muteki as much as to the audience. Watching him is a damn good time though. After all, he’s our host taking us through the engagingly wackadoo world of Neo San Francisco. If you go along for the ride, it’s a hell of a trip.
The show has real strengths in both its music and visuals: the OP is unbelievably catchy, the soundtrack in general slaps, as the kids say, and the art radiates color and energy. So,consider strapping in for an episode or two of Muteking. It’s a lot more than a cheap reboot of a forgotten 80s kids show; it has layers. Just remember the important question: are you dancing?
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Requiem, Thatsmapizza
Ranking of Kings
Written by: TGRIP
Genre(s): Action-Adventure Fantasy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Although he’s next in line to the throne, young prince Bojji doesn’t inspire the people of his kingdom. Because he is unable to hear nor speak and possesses no physical strength, most see him as a weakling who’ll never be capable of leading his country. However, a chance encounter with a sentient shadow named Kage sets him on a path to prove to his people that he’s worthy of leadership. He will soon realize that nothing is as it seems as the people around him, from the strangers he meets to even the fellow leaders of his country, all have their own hidden agendas concerning who deserves to carry the crown…
Why You Should Be Watching: Because this show is so fresh and unlike anything that has aired this year, it genuinely makes me pause when calling it an “anime”. This feels like something that could’ve only come from a place like Studio Wit, which has flexed every muscle possible since it was freed from adapting Attack on Titan, producing incredible series such as The Great Pretender and Vinland Saga. This is yet another ungodly pretty show, and on top of its stellar production values, it has a visual aesthetic that sets it apart from damn near anything I can think of. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of other fantasy anime before, but when was the last time you saw one that legitimately looked like a children’s book brought to life?
Even more importantly, Ranking of Kings is backed up by writing that continuously subverts expectations. It has plenty of characters and scenarios that we’re more than used to, but it catches you off guard by actually fleshing everyone out into realistic humans. Side characters and antagonists all have personal thoughts and endearing motivations behind their actions, and even people who make good first impressions can develop in jaw-dropping directions. The show’s ability to deftly navigate multiple genres leaves me speechless in how seamless it all is. It’s funny, but it’s not an outright comedy. It has great fight scenes, but it’s not a full-on action series. It has plenty of twists and turns, but it’s not exactly what I’d call a drama. This is one of those rare shows that’s a little bit of everything all at once, but somehow still knows exactly what it wants to do and has the sheer raw talent to execute on its ambition.
Ranking of Kings is one of the best gateway anime I’ve seen in years. It feels like a show made for people who’ve become sick of bog-standard anime, and it is clearly made by people who love and know what the medium is capable of.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Gugsy, hybridmink, Protonstorm, Requiem, Tenshigami, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi
Sakugan (Sacks & Guns!!)
Written by: Alistair Hyde
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Adventure
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: This is an anime adaptation of a novel written by Nekotarō Inui about an overprotective father and an overachiever daughter duo (Gagumber and Memempu). The series follows their epic journey of discovery through a dystopian set of colonies located in a labyrinth, made all the more dangerous by giant monsters known as kaiju and other mutated creatures. It is animated by Satelight and directed and written by Jun’ichi Wada.
Why You Should Be Watching: Sakugan features an unusual pair of protagonists inside a miner mecha traveling through the underground colonies. They must explore the unknown and defy conventional wisdom by unlearning, relearning, and adapting according to the situation presented to them. Their father-daughter dynamic is sweet and feels naturally funny, while their master-apprentice exchanges of ideas are interesting. Memempu’s theoretical open mindset that brings rationality with a sense of wonder and curiosity contrasts well with Gagumber’s practical field experience and emotional intelligence.
The supporting cast has both charming manipulators (Zackletu, Merooro, and Yuri) with ulterior motives and kindhearted people (Lynda, Walsh, and Merooro again) in equal proportion.
Each colony depicts a place of the real world; the recreation of popular places, dishes, and stereotypes is remarkable in comparison to other anime that recycle the same medieval town repeatedly. Sakugan also does a great job foreshadowing through premonitions and symbolisms of what is yet to come, but it still lets you enjoy the rest of the ride. Furthermore, it has excellent contrasts between the backgrounds and the colorful bright frame-by-frame fluid animation of the characters and uses CGI only where it is required (water effects, realistic backgrounds, and skin for the kaiju).
Additionally, the music is fantastic. The opening song by Masaaki Endoh, singer of j-rock Anison band Jam Project, is an energetic tune and leaves a good first impression to begin the voyage, while the ending by Anison singer and Youtuber MindaRyn is a catchy classic rock song.
Our protagonists manage to survive in the dangerous unknown of the labyrinth despite the odds thanks to their teamwork. Although their opposing perspectives create conflict along the way, their bond proves that blood is heavier than water and oil.
Recommended by: Alistair Hyde, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, hybridmink, Requiem, Max, Tenshigami
Senpai ga Uzai Kouhai no Hanashi (My Senpai is Annoying)
Written by: umrguy42
Genre(s): Slice of Life, Romantic Comedy
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Despite being a couple years out of college in the workforce, Futaba Igarashi is frequently mistaken for an elementary schooler due to her size. Her work senpai, Harumi Takeda, is a giant bear of a man, and has himself teased Futaba and treated her like a child at times. Despite this, the seeds of a relationship are starting to bloom between them…
Why You Should Be Watching: The show in some ways is a typical romantic comedy — but it’s also one of those rarer breed of “rom-coms involving actual adults” such as Wotakoi and Recovery of an MMO Junkie. While Futaba and Harumi’s relationship has so far remained in the “obvious to everyone around them but themselves” zone, the show has done nice work in building up the gradual change in feelings between the two. Also, while there are a number of jokes at the expense of Futaba’s small size, there’s very little actual teasing of her depicted. Rather, we see her mostly annoyed with Harumi’s overall boisterousness and seeming cluelessness to the times she does show interest in him (and his occasional hair-tousling). Yet this is balanced by how he clearly cares for and values her as a friend and coworker — encouraging her when she makes mistakes, bringing her food when she’s sick, and his enjoyment of the little things she does, like her cute drawings.
In addition, the supporting cast is also excellent. The show features a wonderful side couple, Sakurai and Kazama. While not free of their own bumps and misunderstandings, both of them are much more honest with themselves about their own feelings, with Sakurai making her interest in Kazama clear early on, while he (despite some insecurities) also moves things forward by, for example, asking her to dinner on multiple occasions. There is also Futaba’s bad-ass, motorcycle-driving grandfather, who may be a little too overprotective at times, but is still her beloved, if doting, father-figure. Futaba’s childhood friend Natsumi is also a woman who can hold her own, and despite her teasing of Futaba for her attempts to appear more “grown up” and for Futaba’s obliviousness to (or possibly denial of) her feelings about Harumi, she is clearly a True Friend. At Harumi and Futaba’s workplace, besides Sakurai and Kazama, there’s the department chief, who can read the tea leaves between Harumi and Futaba and is more than willing to help subtly push them together. There’s also Tsukishiro, the Russophile, who may or may not be drinking vodka as part of a “balanced” breakfast. The only disappointment is Hijikata, the eternally clueless coworker who doesn’t accept that he hasn’t got a chance with Sakurai. To sum it all up, studio Doga Kobo is giving us a fun show that once again proves that a “by the numbers” rom-com doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Recommended by: Doctorkev, umrguy42, Requiem, Stínolez, TGRIP
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 Yamamoto
- Dark Aether
First time reading our seasonal recommendation list? Check out last season’s recommendations here:
The 12 New Anime of Summer 2021 You Should Be Watching
Even the slowest of seasons can yield a surprising number of great anime!
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