Bad: Stay away far away from this one. Not worth watching
Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a couple of episodes to see how it goes
Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now
Great: Really good show. Definitely worth seeing if you get the chance
Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .
- All series synopsis from Anime Planet
Synopsis: The story follows five young men who work at the mysterious “Bar F” and who offer to heal the hearts of their clients, wiping away their tears and causing smiles to bloom like flowers. They take no payment … aside from stealing their clients’ hearts.
First Impressions: I wasn’t totally sure what this going to be going in, but I could appreciate the sheer audacity of the character designs, and they way they felt like skimpy magical girl outfits, but put on men. That turns out to have basically hit the nail on the head because this is a magical boy show starring a bunch of pretty boy fairies who come to Earth in disguise, and can do henshin transformations into their true fairy forms, equipped with some super tight spandex. To anyone who’s not a total coward, that sounds pretty amusing, and I can happily say this show was even more entertaining than I could have hoped. In their first outing, one of our fairy protagonists seemingly gets caught up in a love triangle between himself, a shy girl, and some snobby girl addicted to cyberbullying. In doing so, he has to battle his way through some kind of landscape that looks like a witch’s lair straight out of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and squares off against the snobby girl’s wicked heart, which manifests in what is LITERALLY Twitter, and oh my god, I’m trying my darndest not to laugh while I’m typing this. Let’s not mince any words here people: this show is extemely dumb, and it knows it. But it also sure as heck knows how to cater to it’s audience, and between the extemely detailed male nipples in the transformation sequence, and again, how super skimpy those outfits are, I have a hard time imagining anyone who’s here for the hot boys isn’t being well fed. Even if you aren’t though, I’d imagine it’d be hard not to get at least a few chuckles out of the mere concept of a magical boy fighting and destroying Twitter with the sheer power of his beauty, If nothing I’ve said here sounds appealing to you, I imagine there’s plenty of other stuff this season that might be your speed, but if your willing to take a walk on the wild side this season, and witness some absolutely beautiful absurdity, I can’t imagine anything else this season will deliver quite like this did.
The World Ends With You the Animation
Synopsis: Neku awakens in the middle of Shibuya’s bustling Scramble Crossingwith no memory of how he got there. Little does he know he’s been transported to an alternate planeof existence known as the Underground (UG). Now an unwilling participant in the mysterious “Reapers’ Game,” Neku must partner up with a girl named Shiki in order to survive. Together, they complete missions and defeat monsters known as “Noise”as they gradually uncover the true nature of this twisted Game.“ There’s only one way to stay alive in Shibuya: trust your partner.” Will they survive the Reapers’ Game?
First Impressions: To anyone who used to own the original Nintendo DS, The World Ends With You, or TWEWY for all those nerds in the know, was the stuff of legends, both for it’s incredible sense of style, and how it worked that into the game mechanics to make something that truly felt like it could only be played on the DS (and why most of the ports have sucked), and also because of how next to impossible it was to find a copy of the darn thing for years. Despite being something of a cult classic for years, TWEWY’s managed to keep a pretty solid following, and even got a nod in Kingdom Hearts, so it’s cool that all those years of dedication are finally being rewarded with a sequel game and an anime adaption. Given how much of of TWEWY’s appeal is owed to it’s visual style, it was pretty hard to imagine how it could be successfully pulled off, but Kazuya Ichikawa and his team at Shin-Ei Animation and Domerica, managed to make it work as they’ve fully replicated the game’s iconic character designs, and managed to make them look pretty good in motion, and while the action scenes heavily reliant on 3DCG, they’ve done an impeccable job of blending it into the show’s artstyle, allowing it to look fairly seamless, and occasionally great, which is something that can’t often be said anout 3DCG for TV anime.
If it sounds like I’m talking up the technical merits here a little too much, it’s because there’s frankly not a whole lot else here. The actual story of TWEWY, while pretty solid, is also extremely light, and the anime has to speed through quite a bit of it order to fit the whole thing into 12 episodes, so this premiere largely feels like a “Let’s Play” as it constantly jumps from one scenario to another with little room to breathe. By the end of it. all that’s really been established for anyone not already familar with the game is that there’s a bunch of folks called Players who’ve been trapped in some kind of afterlife death game in Shibuya, and a group known as Reapers are in charge of keeping the game running. Also that the main character Neku, is kind of an emo loner. It’s watchable enough, but I have a hard time imagining anyone coming into this for the very first time is gonna walk away impressed by anything besides the visuals. That said, I played my share of TWEWY as a teen so I’m pretty invested in it by this point, and the novelty of seeing it’s style replicated into animation is enough that I’ll probably stick with the adaption so long as it doesn’t get too wonky. If you’re new to TWEWY I’d honestly recommend just playing the game instead (even if you have to put up with the inferior ports) but if you aren’t, I imagine you probably don’t need much convincing to watch this.
Blue Reflection Ray
Synopsis: Blue Reflection follows the life of Hinako Shirai as she takes her first steps into an ordinary school life after a tragic accident ends her ballet career. Her injury causes her to close off her heart from the rest of the world, but her life changes when she meets her new best friends, the magical Shijou twins Yuzu and Lime, who bestow her with the powers of a Reflector. As she comes to terms with her new abilities and traverses between her ordinary school life and The Common, Hinako starts to understand the very real perils that await not only her friends, but humanity itself.
First Impressions: I wasn’t quite sure what this was going in, and with the soft, shojo-esque character designs of the girls in it, this seemed like might be some form of shojo drama, and possibly of the yuri persuation. In actuality this seems to be some kind of magical girl thing, and one that’s apparently a video game adaption. I’m pretty down with more dramatic magical girl stuff, so in theory this premiere should have been a pretty good watch for me, but I spent the entire time kinda feeling like something was missing. Most of the episode follows a shy girl named Ruka who seems extremely bad at interacting with others, and is having trouble adjusting to her new school. While that’s a decent enough character setup, it’s kind of bland in execution and the episode doesn’t do much to get us in her headspace so we mostly just watch her awkwardly try talking to her classmates until she meets her new roommate Hinako, who appears to be much livelier, and kind of more along the lines of what you’d expect from a magical girl protag. That turns out to be intentional I guess, because when they’re attacked by mysterious girl, Hinoa ends up awakening to her magical girl powers, and it seems as though she’s meant to be the actual protagonist of the show.
I can certainly get behind that kind of bait and switch. but because the episode felt kinda dull before she shows up, it kind of ended up having the reverse effect for me, and makes me wish we’d learned more about her, to make her whole magical girl awakening a little stronger. I suppose to be fair it’s always possible this could be some kind of dual-protagonist thing, or at the very least the setup towards a possible romance between them, but I can’t say I feel invested enough to get excited about either possibility. On the plus side, I can say the actual animation of the show looks pretty alright, even if the character designs do look a little weird in their psuedo-shojo style, and nothing here stood out as particularly bad, so it’s entirely possible it could pick up in later episodes. For my end though, I wasn’t anywhere near as entertained by this as I was hoping to be with all the style it seemed to have going for it, and I’ve got other Friday shows this season, so I’m leaning pretty heavily towards taking a pass on this.
I’ve Been Killing Slimes For Over 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level
Synopsis: After dying of overwork in the real world, I’m reincarnated as an immortal witch, and I spend 300 years enjoying a relaxing life. At some point, though, I end up at level 99! All those years spent killing slimes to make the money to pay the bills gave me a ton of experience points… Rumors of the level 99 witch spread, and soon I’m up to my ears in curious adventurers, duelist dragons, and even a monster girl calling me her mom! “This isn’t a dojo, so don’t come here to fight me…!” I’ve never been on an adventure, but I’m the strongest in the world… What’s going to happen to my relaxing life?!
First Impressions: And here comes isekai number two for the season, and this one also happens to star around a heroine who was overworked before getting isekai’d, or reincarnated in this show’s case. Gotta say that at this point, the extent to which these isekai stories have gotten increasingly more casual about death from overwork is kinda getting to be a bit unnerving, and these stories being an escape for young people who are probably being horribly overworked feels particularly transparent in the case of this show. Our heroine Azusa just wants to spend the rest of her days being as lazy as possible, so when she gets the obligatory isekai reincarnation deal, she gets eternal youth (specifically set at age 17, because the goddess “prefers” that. which…is kind of another thing that’s growing increasingly uncomfortable about isekai) and a new house in a peaceful village out of it. Since there’s not much else to do with her time besides hunt slimes, and relax, she does exactly that for about 300 years, and surprise, surprise, doing so has made her into the most powerful witch in the world.
While playing overpowered isekai protags for laughs is certainly preferable to taking them dead seriously, I feel like we’ve gotten so many comedies about that now, that there’s not much material left to mine here. In this show’s case the joke is that Azusa just wants to spend her time doing nothing, and having everyone come out of the woodwork to challenge her is just a gigantic hassle. It’s amusing enough, but I can’t exactly say anything here was laugh-out loud funny, so the appeal seems like it’d come down more to the show having a chill enough atmosphere, and this doesn’t feel quite iyashikei enough for that either. I will say that weird circumstances aside, I do at least generally like Azusa’s mindset as a protagonist, and her whole speech to her new dragon apprentice at the end of the episode about not overworking herself, very much feels like advice a lot of the show’s likely audience in Japan could certainly use. Beyond that, I can’t say this one sticks out anymore than The Saint’s Magic is Omnipotent, and that one was at least “bold” enough to let it’s protagonist stay an adult, so I’m a little more inclined to lean towards it between the two. This seems like a perfectly plesant show, but there’s just so much isekai like it now, that it’s gotta really grab my attention, or at least keep me amused, to be worth any extra time investment, and this one didn’t quite do either for me, so outside of maybe trying the dub if it one, I’m probably skipping on more of it.
Don’t Toy With Me Miss Nagatoro
Synopsis: “A girl in a lower grade just made me cry!” One day, Senpai visits the library after school and becomes the target of a super sadistic junior! The name of the girl who teases, torments, and tantalizes Senpai is “Nagatoro!” She’s annoying yet adorable. It’s painful, but you still want to be by her side. This is a story about an extremely sadistic and temperamental girl and you’ll feel something awaken inside of you.
First Impressions: I’ve been aware of manga of this for quite a while, since I’d often seen it compared to Teasing Master Takagi-san, and touted as a more extreme version of that show’s antics. The whole “girl bullies a guy because she likes him thing” can be kinda cute when done well so and Takagi-san was okay enough at it from what bits of it I watched, but taken to an extreme it just becomes well…bullying and that’s kinda what the premiere here felt like. The story follows our resident MC-kun “Senpai” who one day finds himself drawing the attention of an underclassman girl named Nagatoro, who enjoies messing with him to the point of tears, and that’s basically the joke. On some level I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see any appeal in a show about obnoxious nerds getting dunked on, and a couple of Senpai’s thoughts in the beginning of the episode do bring him slightly close to that category, but he’s generally just minding his own business, so it just felt kinda mean rather than funny, and kinda read like watching a show about someone’s particular fetish. I’m sure as heck not out to kinkshame anyone in that department, and it certainly seems to have it’s appeal judging by how many memes of Nagatoro I’ve seen around on the interwebs, but my own experiences make this kinda thing sorta uncomfortable, so I didn’t really get any mileage out of Nagatoro’s antics, and just kinda wished she’d leave “Senpai” alone. I don’t want to knock this show too hard because it clearly has it’s audience, and I can kinda see how the dynamic here could work if it were a little more balanced, but I’m not really interested in investing any more time into this than I already have. If it’s your thing though, have a good time with it I guess.
Rating: Not For Me
Synopsis: The Republic of San Magnolia has long been under attack from the neighboring Giadian Empire’s army of unmanned drones known as the Legion. After years of painstaking research, the Republic finally developed autonomous drones of their own, turning the one-sided struggle into a war without casualties-or at least, that’s what the government claims. In truth, there is no such thing as a bloodless war. Beyond the fortified walls protecting the eighty-five Republic territories lies the “nonexistent” Eighty-Sixth Sector. The young men and women of this forsaken land are branded the Eighty-Six and, stripped of their humanity, pilot the “unmanned” weapons into battle…
First Impressions: I’ve been hearing good things about the original light novels for these for awhile, and this show was pretty highly anticipated by friends whose opinions I trust so I was eager to see what it was all about. The show takes place in a republic where all the citizens suspiciously have white hair, and and are caught up in some kind of war involving unmanned drones. However a young major named Lena doesn’t seem to like the way these drones are being discarded and feels extremely empathetic towards them unlike her fellow soldiers. When she finds herself getting reassigned to a new unit of drones called Undertaker, we find out that despite the drones being officially labled as “unmanned” they do in fact have actual pilots, and said pilots have are none too thrilled about the way they’ve been sacrificed, and have it out for the elites from the mililtary. Especially the leader of Undertaker, a young man named Shin. It’s quite a lot to take in, but it makes for a pretty interesting setup. Between the obvious miltary fascism involving the way whatever war is going on has been romanticized, and some clear class divides between the citizens of the tituarly named 86th district, and the 1st, there’s a lot of potential here for some interesting commentary, and this premiere has done a pretty good job of establishing the setting. I’m also pretty curious to learn more about our leads, and to get a clearer picture of why Lena hasn’t bought into the propaganda of the 86th citizens being disposanle drones, as well as the kind of lives Shin and his fellow soldiers have had to endure under that. The show looks pretty good too, and while the 3DCG for the robots isn’t amazing, it’s workable, and everything else looks put together enough to compensate for that. There’s a lot of ways this show could end up being lame or problematic, but it’s certainly off to a strong start, and I’m willing to put my trust in it for now. If you’re in the market for a nice solid mecha show this season, this definently seems like the one to watch.
Synopsis: Takemichi Hanagaki is a freelancer that’s reached the absolute pits of despair in his life. He finds out that the only girlfriend he ever had in his life that he dated in middle school, Hinata Tachibana, had been killed by the ruthless Tokyo Manji Gang. The day after hearing about her death, he’s standing on the station platform and ends up being pushed over onto the tracks by a herd of people. He closes his eyes thinking he’s about to die, but when he opens his eyes back up, he somehow had gone back in time 12 years. Now that he’s back living the best days of his life, Takemichi decides to get revenge on his life by saving his girlfriend and changing himself that he’d been running away from.
First Impressions: I’ve been hearing pretty good things about the manga for this, so I was curious to check the series out when it finally got an anime adaption. So far, I’d say it’s off to a pretty decent start. The series follows a 26-year old man named Takemichi who’s just kind of drifiting through his adult life as a failure when he learns that his girlfriend from middle school named Hinata, was killed in the middle of a street gang dispute. When Takemichi gets pushed off a train platform towards his own supposed death, he instead finds himself transported 12 years into the past in middle school. He and his friends were delinquents themselves, and when they ended up picking a fight with the wrong group of thugs, they got roped into the very same gang that killed Hinata. While reliving some of these events digs up some old trauma for him, when he goes to see Hinata, he remembers how strongly he felt about her and resolves to do whatever it takes to save her. This leads to him inadvertedly saving Hinata’s younger brother Naoto, and when Takemichi returns to the present, he finds himself reunited with Naoto who wants to work with him to change the future and change Hinata’s fate. I imagine that anyone who’s seen the time-travel anime thriller, Erased from a few years back will find this has quite a bit in common with it, and I certainly noticed a lot of parallels, but I sure wouldn’t consider that a bad thing. Erased was a pretty good time, so if you’re gonna borrow a premise from something, it might as well be something good, and the specific angle of centering this time travel story around street gangs is pretty interesting, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with that if it’s done well. My only real worry is exactly how much the romance angle between Takemichi and Hinata is gonna be played into since there’s always the chance it could turn creepy considering the whole time-travel thing, and since Erased managed to avoid tripping up on that particular problem (to the ire of some), I’d hate to see this screw the pooch on that. Potential creepiness aside, this seems like a pretty good set-up for a sci-fi thriller and I’m pretty curious to see just how much this series ends up living up to its reputation
Pretty Boy Detective Club
Synopsis: Mayumi Doujima, a second-year student at Yubiwa Private Academy, is a girl on the hunt for a star that can only be seen once in every ten years. But it turns out that the “Pretty Boy Detectives Club”—a mysterious, non-profit organization that is rumored to secretly solve trouble on campus—has decided to help Mayumi search for the star. These five vivacious pretty boys send her reeling, and set the stage for days of risky adventure!
First Impressions: Since SHAFT’s been busy getting a lot of their staff poached left and right. I’ve almost forgotten how absurd SHAFT productions can be when going all out, and considering this is an adaption of a new series from Nisio Isin of Monogatari fame, this seems like as good a project as any to remind folks what they’re all about. On paper, this premiere can be summed as follows: A girl named Mayumi ends up inadvertedly (?) soliciting the services of a school club known as well…the Pretty Boy Detective Club to help her track down a star she’d seen in her childhood so she can convince her parents to let her pursue her dream of being an astronaut. In execution, this premiere is a montage of flashy storyboarding, and overly busy visual direction that clearly wants your eyes to be glued to the screen in awe of how pretty all of it is. That in a nutshell is basically the visual style of SHAFT in a nutshell, and you’ll likely find it to be either extremely impressive or extremely obnoxious with not much in between. Having sat through my share of SHAFT shows over the years, I’m kinda over their particular brand of flashiness, and while I like creative storyboarding, having so much of it being bombarded at the screen every 5 seconds just kinda makes it hard to pay attention to anything, and kind of distracted me from anything that was supposed to be going on.
The tituar pretty boy detectives do seem interesting enough, and while they all seem to be walking anime archetypes, they’re quick to call out Mayumi (and likely the audience) on assuming they’re shallow or just putting on a character bit when they’re truly just being themselves, flashiness and all. If it’s supposed to serve as some kinda meta-commentary regarding shows about bishonen ensembles (which given Nishio Isin’s track record isn’t something I’d put past him) then it could certainly be interesting, and I do like how they bounce off of Mayumi and get her to realize that despite her complaints that they’re taking advantage of her for their own antics, she might be the one who’s really looking down on her own dream. There was a pretty decent amount of heart beneath what I’ve seen of Monogatari’s madness, and I’m a pretty big fan of his underrated Shonen Jump manga, Medaka Box, so I’m at least intrigued whenever Isin ends up putting out something new, but between the hefty amount of prose, and the incredibly busy visuals, I’m not sure exactly how excited I am to watch more of this. I might just end up waiting for a dub on this one, but if “Monogatari, but boys with some potential commentary about that” sounds appealing to you, there’s a fair chance you’ll enjoy this, and even if not, I can at least say nothing else this season looks quite like it.
Battle Athletes Victory ReSTART
Synopsis: In the year 5100, elite athletes from around the solar system compete to become Cosmic Beauty, the champion of a huge athletic tournament.
First Impressions: Battle Athletes is the latest in 90’s anime titles to get a revival in the modern day, and it seems like a bit of an odd one to revive. The basic lowdown here is simple enough: A bunch of highschool girls are competing in extreme sports events IN SPACE to claim the title of “Cosmo Beauty”. One of them is a girl from the countryside named Kanata who had an encounter with a mysterious girl as a child who told her to become the Cosmo Beauty before mysteriously vanishing, and then reappearing before her at the end of the episode with no idea who she is now. If I had to describe the actual feel of this show though, it’s pretty dang retro. Everything from the style of humor to the levels of camp on display here feel like they were ripped straight from the 90’s and while the character designs might look a little more modern, even then have an old school feel to them that seems like something you’d seen in an anime from the early 00’s and not 2021. As a fan of 90’s camp, I was pretty amused by this premiere. Kanata came off as likeable enough in her antics to feel like she’s worth rooting for, and I got a decent chuckle out of the fact that she apparently owes her incredible physical strength to all the time she spent digging up potatoes. I’m not quite sold on some of the other girls just yet, but they seem like they could be pretty fun, and I’m curious to see exactly how extreme the show actually ends up going with the sports. I imagine the general style of this show is gonna be pretty off-putting to more modern sensibilities, but if you like retro stuff, this certainly seems committed to the bit, and looks pretty decent. I might stick with it for a little while.
To Your Eternity
Synopsis: A lonely boy wandering the Arctic regions of North America meets a wolf, and the two become fast friends, depending on each other to survive the harsh environment. But the boy has a history, and the wolf is more than meets the eye as well…
First Impressions: This was the most hotly anticipated anime of the season among my personal nerd circles, and for good reason. The original manga comes courtesy of Yoshitoki Oima, the author of A Silent Voice, and it’s a fantasy story that’s a non-stop train of tragic, yet beautiful gut punches. I’ve only read a little bit of the original manga myself, but I did dig it, and the material came across so strongly that the question here with the anime was less “will this story be good?” and more “how well will the anime staff convey the material without compromising anything?”. The answer is: pretty darn well I’d say. Masahiko Murata and the staff at Brain’s Base seem to have done a bang up job bringing TYE into the realm of animation, and delivered on a pretty stellar premiere. The opener follows a mysterious orb that can transform into, and take on the properites of objects and living things it comes into contact with. After transforming into wolf, it finds itself spending its days in the company of a lonely boy whose family has left in search of “paradise” beyond the harsh snow of their village. While the boy remains cheerful and optimistic despite being all alone, he eventually decides leave in search of paradise himself, and finds his journey cut short when he injures his leg and realizes that everyone who had left ended up dying along the way. The boy ends up dying sad and alone, but asks the wolf to remember him, and the wolf decides to take the form of the boy, and go on the journey he never could.
It’s a beautiful but extremely sad little tale, and it’s told wonderfully through both the writing, and the direction as the show does a fantastic job at getting across the boy’s isolation, and his breakdown upon realizing what happened to his family was pretty heartwrenching. Animation wise, it could have been a little stronger, but it was perfectly solid, if not at least functional, and shows that air on NHK have had a history of very workman like productions so I wasn’t setting my expectations super high on that end. Aside from that, this premiere was basically firing on all cylinders, and if the rest of the manga is anything like this was, we’ll be in for quite a ride and I’m waiting eagerly with both excitment, and horror at where it can go from here. There’s a lot of really fantastic shows this season, and I’d be doing you a disservice by telling you to stick to a single show, but if there’s anything you absolutely need to check out, it’s undoubtedly this one.
That more or less wraps up my impressions coverage for this season, and honestly it’s looking ridiculously strong. Even with two of the heavily anticipated shonen heavy hitters being locked away in Netflix jail for a few months, there’s still a ton of variety to be had here, and no matter what kind of anime fan you are, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that gels with you. Of course there’s a high likelihood that a lot of these shows could end up crapping the bed in some way 3 months from now, but I’d like to be optimistic, and even though I’m kind of ovewhelemed by the amount of stuff I might end up watching this time around, it’s also kind of exciting to see this much potential lying around. We’ll see how it all pans out when these shows wrap up, but until then, stay animated.