Note: Please look at the end for an important announcement!
Happy new year and welcome to a brand new segment for this blog! I hope the new year has treated you well. 2020 was rough for all of us, but we’re off to a fresh start with some hope on the horizon.
Anyway, with this segment of my blog, my hope is to catalog all the new seasonal anime I watch after a few weeks and give my initial thoughts and analysis on each of them. I’ll return in April to state closing thoughts and what I thought ended up being best and worst.
The winter 2021 season is off to a splendid start, and I’m keeping up with a dozen or so new shows, which I think is a personal record.
But onto the important stuff. You all want to know, so enough rambling. What am I watching and what do I think?
Synopsis: College students Sorawo and Toriko like to explore “The Otherside,” a mysterious other world where Internet creepypastas come to life. They search for Toriko’s friend who gets lost in The Otherside and bring artifacts back. What will they find during their adventures?
First impressions: Otherside Picnic is based on a light novel series of the same name which is itself loosely based on the Russian novel “Roadside Picnic,” which also formed the basis for the famous sci-fi film “Stalker.” That’s what pulled me into this series since even though I admittedly haven’t seen “Stalker,” I know of it and how lauded it is. Plus, this features two girls as the protagonists instead of a man.
It’s labeled as a yuri/GL story as well and it’s getting clearer as the episodes go on that Sorawo is starting to feel more than friendship toward Toriko. Whether this actually develops will have to be seen. It’s quite rare to see yuri to begin with, and rarer still to see it develop into something meaningful. Last season’s “Adachi and Shimamura” was promising but burned too slowly for my taste.
The animation is okay. Nothing fancy but the CG and odd art on some monsters works to the series’ favor given that these are otherworldly beings. Overall the mixture of genres is right up my alley. Sci-fi and yuri is a pretty killer combo but the execution will have to be good to make it work. I’ll keep a good eye on this one to see where it goes. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Wonder Egg Priority
Synopsis: Ai Ohto wins a mysterious egg from a gachapon a a deserted arcade. When she goes to sleep that night, she wakes up in a dream world where toilet paper tells her to break the egg. When she does, another girls appears from it and now Ai has to save her from the evils of the dream if she hopes to bring back a lost friend.
First impressions: Pardon my language but ho-ly shit, these first three episodes have been incredible so far. Between the beautiful animation we have a powerful story about a girl learning to “break out of her shell” in order to save her friend. The series isn’t afraid to tackle bullying and suicide and much of the imagery in these first three episodes can be quite graphic.
It’s hard to believe the director, Shin Wakabayashi, has never directed a full series before. It’s confident, unflinching, subtle and filled with character animation that adds a real personal and intimate touch to the story. From the way a girl twirls the pen in her hand to the way another gently grabs the foot of her friend laying in her bed. It’s a psychological drama unafraid to tell its story.
If the rest of the series is as strong as these first three episodes, there’s every reason to think it could end up as one of the best anime of the year, if not the best. For now, it’s the series I loom forward to most every week.
Re:Zero season 2 part 2
Synopsis: Subaru Natsuki’s struggle to free the Sanctuary continues with the help of a new ally in Otto. The two craft a plan to make sure Garfiel doesn’t stand in their way and Subaru is determined to make sure Emilia passes the trial AND the mansion is saved from the deadly attack from Roswaal.
First impressions: There isn’t much to say here since this is merely a continuation of the first half of the second season to Re:Zero. So we’re not really starting from episode 1, but rather episode 14. So it’s unfair to call this a first impression. However I haven’t talked about Re:Zero yet so I’ll mention what I can about season 2 in general.
It feels like Re:Zero never really left us. The quality of the animation and directing and writing is on par with season 1, and season 2 picks up immediately after where the first season leaves off, with no recap at all, so if it’s been a while, you may want to refresh yourself on the prior season’s events. Also, while not essential viewing, I’m told the “The Frozen Bond” OVA episode adds a lot of important context this second half of the season, particularly regarding Emilia.
This is by far the longest arc we’ve seen so far (as anime onlys) that keeps with the pattern of each arc getting longer than the last, and while fun it’s a little difficult keeping track of all the details. This isn’t a huge detriment against the series and in general it’s easy enough to follow what’s going on but it does keep it from being truly great, which is unfortunate. I’m not sure if this is an issue for the light novels as well but it’s something to note.
Other than that, though. This second half of the season has been quite strong. We’re seeing some payoff for the Subaru-Emilia ship and some more insight into the other characters like Otto and Garfiel. Here’s hoping the season keeps the pace and ends a soon-to-be 50 episode adaptation on a high note, and that a season 3 gets greenlit as well.
Attack on Titan The Final Season
Synopsis: 4 years after the Scouts eliminated the remaining titans on Paradis and reached the sea, the next generation of Warrior candidates on Marley are caught in a bloody battle, which they narrowly win along with Zeke and Reiner’s help, putting Marley’s might on the world state with the caveat that eventually human technology will overpower the Titans. Thus Zeke suggests that they launch another operation to reclaim the Founding Titan from Eren.
First impression: By now quite a few episodes have aired since this season began back in December of 2020. But with it being 16 confirmed episodes, there’s still a normal batch to go and should end around the same time the other winter titles do. That said, there’s been a notable shift here artistically with the final season being handed over to MAPPA by Wit Studio (who handled the first three seasons). Gone are the defining thick black outlines and the titans are made with more CG as well. Not a terribly intruding difference but it is noticeable, and I’ll admit, not as great in my opinion, as the previous style. However, MAPPA has proven themselves more than capable and the negative messages fans have sent them are downright embarrassing and not how an audience should act toward creators.
The story also takes on a major shift as we move from Paradis in the first three seasons to Marley, the big bads the previous seasons have alluded to since the beginning. There’s a also a heavier focus on Reiner and the warrior candidates. With that comes the elephant in the room I need to address, and that’s the underlying political overtones of the series. I will say outright I do not think this series promotes fascism or that Hajime Isayama himself is one. In fact I think Reiner is a great example of how children are used and exploited by fascist governments with propaganda only for them to break down when they find out the contradiction to that propaganda with their own eyes by actually meeting the State’s enemies. However, it does seem like it’s moving toward a “both sides are ultimately corrupt but sympathetic” kind of take, and that on its own can be complicated to say the least. The armbands and other Nazi/Holocaust allusions add even more complexity to the picture.
All that said, you cannot deny that the series action is entertaining as hell to watch despite the irony that it’s juxtaposed with anti-war themes and it deserves at least some credit for being so blunt about its intentions to discuss harsh moral grey areas. I’m impressed it continues to walk an increasingly difficult narrative tightrope. But I am happy we’re getting a conclusion to this series that began almost 8 years ago now and I’ll be watching to see which side of the tightrope the series lands and those brutally awesome fight scenes.
The Promised Neverland season 2
Synposis: Emma, Ray, and the other children have escaped Grace Field House, the facility raising them as cattle for demons. But now they need to find safety and survive in the hash demonic world. Guided my the puzzles Mr. Minerva left behind, they search for safety. Can they make it out for good?
First impression: The Promised Neverland blew me away when it first aired in 2019. The first episode was one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory as far as premieres go. With the twist of the world already known by now, these first few episodes didn’t leave my jaw on the floor, and didn’t carry the same uneasiness the first season had as a result. This was a fairly strong start, though. One thing that continues about The Promised Neverland is that it always throws you for a loop. No one is ever really “safe.” You need to be suspicious of anyone and everyone, even some of the other children, as the first season illustrated.
The big reveal about the hideout is the latest example of this. I hear that this represents a major shift from the original manga. So we’ll have some changes to reckon with as the story progresses. However, the original mangaka is the one overseeing these changes and is supervising the scripts along with Toshiya Ono, who supervised the scripts for season 1, so if anything, the anime original story is in good hands.
I’m also curious to see the world outside the farm, which proved to be the greatest mystery in the first season and ultimately finding it was the climax of the season. But now I’m also curious about what’s going on back at the farm and the other farms. TPN has built up such a simple but unique premise which allows for lots of interesting twists and turns and some of the answers have been coming in doses so far. I imagine this isn’t the end we’ve seen of our two demon allies as well we saw in the beginning of this season. Hopefully we get more of them as well. Overall, I’m just hoping we get a good ending for these kids. They certainly deserve it.
Log Horizon: Destruction of the Round Table
Synopsis: The adventures continue for the adventurers still trapped inside the world very similar to Elder Tale, a popular MMORPG. The adventurers created a Round Table Conference to deal with problems arising within their new world both with the other adventurers and the NPC “People of the Land.” Now, after a year of being trapped, the Round Table is on the verge of collapse.
First impressions: It’s been a long 6 years since the ending of Log Horizon season 2 but here we are back at it again, and like most sequels here, it feels like we never left, with studio DEEN returning from season 2 to animate along with much of the creative staff. The opening song is different and will take some getting used to but BAND-MAID’s theme is a banger. No song can replace DATABASE by the legendary Man With a Mission and it will always have a legacy of its own but a new song for a fresh start to the series is a take I’m satisfied with.
In typical Log Horizon fashion, there is hardly any recap from the previous season and the story gets straight to the point. There’s also lots of talking. Lots and lots of talking. The ironic appeal of “Log Horizon” is that despite the fact it’s set in a video game world, much of the action happens through political strategy. It takes into account the NPCs and their issues and how the adventurers should *live* in this world instead of placing all the focus on how to escape. The short of the plot so far is that Eins, one of the members of The Round Table established in the first season, doesn’t feel the Round Table is doing a good enough job to address the growing inequalities among adventurers and people of the land, so he leaves and becomes a Duke and asks Shiroe for help.
Not a bad first showing, though. Didn’t leave my jaw dropped but I wasn’t disappointed either. Log Horizon has a lot of slow build moments and the climactic payoffs after all the political strategy are what make it so engaging. I’m looking forward to how the rest of the season plays out.
Synopsis: Hori has a secret. At home she’s actually a sloppy stand-in mother for her younger brother despite being the popular girl at school. Miyamura has a secret of his own, too. Despite being a long haired loner he has tons of piercings and tattoos living an outgoing life outside school. What happens when the two find out each other’s secrets?
First impressions: This is a title I had heard about before and was looking forward to it since the art looked nice. I’m happy to report that it has been a very nice series so far. It’s got heart and comedy to spare along with the drama. The OP in particular might be my favorite of the season with it’s strong visuals and distinct directorial voice.
If you’re into cute romcoms then you really can’t pass this one up. As the series introduces new elements that complicate Hori and Miyamura’s relationship, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes. The manga is supposedly ending after 9 years. Hopefully we get a complete adaptation?
Synopsis: When detective Inugami investigates a small village, he meets Kabane, a young child who is actually a ghoul. Inugami takes him into his agency as someone who can investigate the supernatural.
First impressions: The first episode of this series was quite strong. It had an air of mystery, and it wasn’t afraid to pull any punches with its gore. The mystery of Kabane and the dead animals in the first episode was gorgeous from the top down. Unfortunately the following episodes have been less exciting.
It’s been limited to the children of Inugami’s agency investigating small cases. However, if it can reach the level of the first episode with another mystery or include more expansive story arcs, I can see its standing improve significantly.
If you’re a fan of the supernatural, then this is definitely up your alley. Just don’t expect any glorious blood and guts after the first episode.
Sk8 the Infinity
Synopsis: When Langa moves to Japan after living in Canada most of his life, his new friend Reki introduces him to skateboarding since Langa was a snowboarder. But as they continue to skate in various “beefs,” someone powerful is watching them, lurking in the shadows.
First impressions: I admit, I’m not too big on sports anime. It’s generally not my thing. Even now, I’m not too into this series but it’s animated by studio BONES (who I love) so I decided to stick with it. The skating scenes are beautifully crafted and beneath the surface we have an underdog story with Langa and how he learns to break out of his shell.
The main antagonist ADAM can also provide some juicy tidbits on secret lives of politicians. Ultimately what we have is a heavily male cast (seriously, can we get some more anime with both men and women competing?) with some typical shonen themes with an interesting spin and solid animation. The opening song is also pretty good and has stunning visuals. It’s not a favorite but I’ll be sticking with it to the end to see how it goes.
Cells at Work!!
Synopsis: Cells at Work continues as Red Blood Cell works to deliver O2 throughout the body and White Blood Cell works to eliminate germs in this educational anime about bodily health.
First impressions: Cells at Work!! is keeping up the pace of its predecessor. While I never truly loved Cells at Work, I did find it cute and charming. There isn’t too much to say about Cells at Work!! that can’t be said about season 1.
It feels more like an educational lecture that happens to use cute anime girls to get the point across, but I appreciate it for what it does. It’s one of the shows I’ve fallen behind on but knowing I’m not missing much of a plot doesn’t help. You can pretty much just jump in anywhere and not be lost.
I’ll continue with Cells at Work!! but more out of obligation. The idea of it runs dry pretty fast, so binging it isn’t recommended.
Cells at Work: CODE BLACK
Synopsis: In this spin-off to Cells at Work, Red Blood Cell works to deliver O2 in a rapidly decaying body that suffers from smoking, drinking, stress, sleep deprivation, and other health issues, while White Blood Cell works to kill viruses and infections that threaten the body, more powerful than any of the cells can anticipate.
First impressions: Code BLACK is surprisingly dark and goes pretty far with its metaphors and the narrator isn’t a cute girl who sounds like a teacher, it’s Kenjiro Tsuda, who grittily warns viewers how not to take care of the body as he explains the gory details about your anatomy. If you’re looking for a “grown up” Cells at Work, this will be up your alley. It provides more narrative power and brutality than you would get from the original series, and I like the creativeness as a result.
Swapping the genders of the cells is another difference as well (here Red is a ”male” cell and White is a ”female” cell with notably large breasts).
Aside from the extra brutality though, it’s created some Cells at Work fatigue. I’ve fallen behind on this one as well. I think airing them in the same season probably wasn’t the best move. However, I do appreciate taking a concept like Cells at Work and making it more suitable for an audience craving some added depth and violence. Safe to say if you’re looking for fun, you won’t find it here.
That’s it for now! I know I’m late (I actually intended to make this an initial impressions piece that turned out to be a mid season piece because I waited so long), and there’s still more for me to see but I hope this provides a little insight on what I’m watching and hopefully serves as a guide. I also just wanted to get some thoughts down about all I’m watching that are too long for social media. See you in the next essay! I have lots of projects in the works so look forward to them!
Announcement: I’ve just been brought on as a reviewer for The Fandom Post! Look out for stuff I’ll be writing there as well! You can read my first review for them here: