First Impressions- Winter 2021 Anime (Part 2)

Onwards and upwards to Week 2 of the Winter 2021 anime season! Okay I guess it feels a little false to call this week 2 when stuff only really started premiering in earnest last Tuesday, but that’s close enough for me, and I gotta try to spread this out a least a little bit, so this is where the rest of my impressions are going. As you might have guessed from my rambling, there’s still plenty of anime looming over the horizon and its possible that the best (or likely worst) is still yet to come, so time to keep this moving.

Ratings Scale

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 .


Kemono Jihen

Kemono Jihen

Synopsis: In a quiet rural village, many domestic animals die unnatural deaths in a strange incident. To resolve the incident, an odd-looking man from Tokyo who goes by the name “Inugami” comes to the town to investigate. In the town, he meets a young boy who has a mysterious air about him called “Dorotabou.”

First Impressions: I’d heard some small rumblings about the manga, but I really knew about this series going in was that it was some kind of supernatural battle manga. You wouldn’t be able to tell for the first half of the episode though, as the opener kicks off with a detective from Tokyo named Inugami coming to the countryside to solve a case, and gets close with a village boy called Doratobo. Doratobo is clearing being ostracized by the other villagers and his extended family that took him in after his parents vanished for some reason or another, but much of the premiere is Doratobo and Inugami getting acquainted and Doratobo opening up about wanting to meet his parents someday. Then we learn that the keepsake from his parents that he keeps around his neck is meant to keep him from transforming into a creature called a Kemono and that Doratobo’s aunt hired Inugami to kill him. However Inugami ends up taking pity on Doratobo, and while “kills” him, it turns out Doratobo is incapable of actually dying anyway and he’s taken by Inugami to the big city where he can hopefully find his parents, and abandons the name Doratobo for his real name, Kabane. It’s a bit of an odd way to open up an action horror series but it’s pretty effective. Kabane’s troubled backstory makes him immediately endearing, and I like the relationship he has with Inugami so far, so I’m curious to see how that’ll develop. The design for Kabane’s “Kemono” form is also pretty spookly looking, and the overall direction of the premiere had an effective enough lead-in for a classic horror set-up, I was almost a little let down when it seemed like this was probably going to be more action centered. The production here looks pretty solid too, and I dig how reminiscent the character designs feel of 90’s shonen action horror classics like Ushio & Tora. Since so much of this premiere was basically just setup, it’s anyone’s guess what the actual plot of this is gonna be aside from Kabane’s search for his real parents, but I liked what I saw here just enough that I’m happy to see where it goes for now.

Rating: Good


Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Synopsis: When a 34-year-old underachiever gets run over by a bus, his story doesn’t end there. Reincarnated in a new world as an infant, Rudy will seize every opportunity to live the life he’s always wanted. Armed with new friends, some freshly acquired magical abilities, and the courage to do the things he’s always dreamed of, he’s embarking on an epic adventure—with all of his past experience intact!

First Impressions: There have been a lot of isekai over the years, and they’ve become so prominent it’s almost hard to imagine a time where we were largely devoid of them. Of course pretty much every genre starts somewhere, and Jobless here is the granddaddy of modern isekai stories. I do vaguely recall skimming through the first chapter or two back when I still used to read manga scanlations, but that was many years ago, and I’ve seen dozens of other isekai since then, so how does it hold up against its successors you might ask? Well I mean, it’s still isekai so that basically answers that, but in some ways it’s the most obnoxious of the bunch I’ve come across in a good while. We get our usual setup of MC-kun dying in a horrible accident before getting reincarnated as a baby in a world where magic and monsters exist, but where later variants of this story at least had the sense to make MC-kun a harmless vanilla boy, or at least some over-exhausted worker who might reasonably deserve a second chance at happiness, this shows MC-kun was some jobless otaku smuck, and the first words that come to mind after he gets reborn are about how big his new mom’s boobs are. Unfortunately he doesn’t get any better from there as the episode shuffles between him learning how to use magic, and him just being creepy towards every woman he comes across as he grows, including his young magic teacher who he explicitly states he wants to bang. So yeah, the lead is kind of a huge creepy even by isekai standards, and even taking that out of the equation what we get here is pretty much the same as literally any other isekai premiere you can think of. The one genuinely nice thing I can say about the show is that the production looks really, really good and it’s clear that a lot of resources were poured into it, but given how bland or actively bad every other aspect of it is, it almost feels actively frustrating that all of that couldn’t have been put into a better show. I guess if you very specifically want a nice looking isekai show, then this qualifies, but even then there are still other isekai shows that look pretty good and feel less obnoxious than this did. Hard pass.

Rating: Bad


EX-ARM

Ex-Arm

Synopsis: In the year 2014, a high school student who hates machines, Akira Natsume, wants to change himself for the better and tries to take the first step in doing that… But then he gets run over by a truck. Fast forward to 2030. A police officer named Minami Uezono and her partner, the android Alma, infiltrate the scene of a trade going on at Tokyo Harbor for an unknown weapon named “EX-ARM.” They are then attacked by an enemy armed with the “EX-ARM” No.08. Put in this life or death situation, they decide to activate the “EX-ARM” No.00 that they stole from the enemy, and… 

First Impressions: So this series was announced as getting an anime a few years ago, and we then proceeded to never hear about it again until Crunchyroll announced it was going to be one of their “Crunchyroll Originals” co-productions. It was kinda weird seeing a show announcement get that much radio silence after it’s initial announcement and it got a couple more delays even after Crunchyroll announced it, so it was a mystery what the heck was going on behind the scenes with this show until we saw the trailers, and boy did we see the trailers. What was presented in those trailers was some of the most embarrassingly bad 3DCG I’ve seen in anything and pretty comparable to the first season or two of RWBY, though to that show’s credit, it at least had some killer fight choreography, and it’s studio RoosterTeeth could still be reasonably considered an indy group in those days. That a fully funded TV anime production could look that embarrassing was frankly absurd, and I’m here to tell you the actual show doesn’t really look any better than those trailers. The 3DCG models look incredibly stiff, with little in the way of facial expressions, and robotically animated lip flaps, and the way they’re blended into some of the limited 2D backgrounds is so poor and choppy it makes GoHands look like Kyoto Animation. The 3DCG backgrounds and vehicles also look very choppy and blocky to a pretty amateurish degree, and even the fight scenes, while having maybe a couple of instances of decent fight choreography look incredibly stiff and awkward.

Ex-Arm looks relentingly, embarrassingly awful, and it’s kind of a shame because while the actual story doesn’t seem like a masterpiece or anything, it comes across as way more competent than anything in the anime’s production, and going by the shots of the original character designs we see in the eyecatches and ED song, this show could have looked pretty good in better hands. I have to specify “other hands” because as has been pointed out by folks more knowledgeable than I, the director Yoshikatsu Kimura specializes in live action projects and when he was brought along for this project, rather than hiring staff who already worked in the anime industry, he hired a bunch of other folks who only had experience in live action, believing he’d be able to create something unique that you wouldn’t see from a regular TV anime and well…he wasn’t wrong I guess. Honestly I feel pretty bad for the original manga authors because now their work is gonna be forever tied to this guy’s narcissism and there’s absolutely no excuse for how this whole thing was put together. That said while this show looks abysmal, it is the sort of production disaster that only rarely comes along so for that reason alone I might keep up with it lay proof to it’s existence (which Crunchyroll very understandably probably wants to hide now) as a cautionary tale of sorts. Beyond that though, I honestly can’t think of a single reason to recommend this show in good faith, so unless you’re very, and I mean very specifically interested in examining this disaster of a production, there’s better shows you can watch this season, and probably better ways to spend your time.

Rating: Bad


Wonder Egg Priority

Wonder Egg Priority

Synopsis: The aforementioned Ai scored a “Wonder Egg” from a gachapon machine at a deserted arcade. But when Ai falls asleep and a girl (!) emerges from her Wonder Egg, the worlds of dreams and reality begin to collide. And it’s all connected.

First Impressions: This show wasn’t super high on my radar for the season, but all the preview images I saw made this seem like it was gonna be a pretty low-key coming of age thing, and while that’s not something I’d consider outright exciting, I tend to enjoy that sort of show more often than not so I was curious to check it out. What I watched…was pretty much anything but low-key. The story follows a girl named Ai who seems to be a shut-in for reasons that aren’t totally clear yet, and when she goes on a walk through a park one evening she encounters a mysterious talking bug who gives her egg that it claims can make her desire for a friend to come true. After eventually deciding to crack the egg, Ai gets transported to some kind of other dimension where she’s thrown into what seems to be some weird death game scenario involving monsters called Seeno Evils. However rather than the monsters going after Ai, they go after another girl named Kurumi. While Ai initially tries to run away from the whole ordeal, seeing Kurumi in danger reminds her of her relationship with her best friend who committed suicide and how she failed to save her. Ai decides to step in and save Kurumi only for Kurumi to vanish afterwards, but it seems that saving Kurumi was actually the objective all along and that if Ai continues to save others, she’ll be able to bring her friend back to life.

If everything I just described sounds weird to you well…yeah the show is pretty weird, and the off-kilter visual direction certainly didn’t make any of it easier to digest, I’ll be darned if it didn’t catch my attention though. While we don’t yet know the full circumstances of what led to the suicide of Ai’s friend, we do know that Ai was bullied for her heterochromia before they met, and the impression I got from the last few minutes of the episode are that all of the kids Ai and the other participants are tasked with “saving” are ones who committed suicide. That’s a pretty touchy subject to dive into, but there is a lot of room for potential, and given how much of a problem it’s apparently become among Japanese schoolkids these days, there’s certainly plenty to explore with it, though there is the fear it could turn around and end up being extremely insensitive. Honestly so much of this premiere’s direction is obtuse that even everything I’ve just speculated feels like it might be too bold an assertion of where the show could be going, and it could end up doing something else entirely, but either way it’s got me interested. I don’t know exactly what Wonder Egg is going to be, or even what its ideas are beyond base speculation, but what I do know is that there was no other premiere this season quite like it, and if nothing else, it’s more than worth a look.

Rating: Great


And that’s basically it for me with season impressions. I know this ended up being a lot shorter than usual despite my own expectations, but I didn’t quite realize the extent to which half this season was comprised of sequels, and since I’ve made it a bit of a personal policy not to bother doing impressions about them since there’s not much point in talking up a show people are already invested in, that left me a little stuck. Can’t complain about giving myself less of a headache though, and as far as the non-sequels of the season go, it seems like there’s potential for some heavy hitters despite a few giant turds. Hopefully that prophecy ends up coming true come Spring, but until then, as always, stay as safe as you can, stay indoors as much as you can, and stay animated.

<- Part 1

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