Spring 2021 in Review

This past anime season, counting holdovers from the Winter 2021 season, I watched 26 anime. Of those, I completed 22. Normally, we at the Backloggers would do an end-of-season podcast covering a select few shows in the hopes that we can get some good discussion for those handful of titles and not have a days-long episode on our hands. However, with our sort-of-official-but-not-really-announced two-month-long anti-burnout blog hiatus, we didn’t exactly have that structured outlet for putting our seasonal thoughts out in the open.

For everyone involved except for me, this was a mistake. Without the set three-to-five-ish shows per end-of-season podcast restriction holding me back, there is nothing that can stop me from talking about 26 anime from this season, which I will do, in no particular order, starting RIGHT NOW.

So I’m a Spider, So What?

Spider is hands-down the best isekai series in recent memory. There is absolutely no competition, in my mind. Kumoko is an absolute gremlin, and she knows it, and she knows that we know it, and man, does that make for a fun character dynamic. I have busted a gut frequently watching this show, particularly because 1) the show is actually quite funny, and 2) when I started out, I did not expect this show to be either good or funny, so it was always a genuine delight! The story was genuinely engaging, which is not something I can say about many isekai series in general, the EDs are too powerful for this earth, Kumoko’s VA should absolutely get paid fat wads of cash for her performance, and if you look past the last episode or so, the visual presentation of the show, especially Kumoko’s 3DCG, is an absolute delight to watch.

In conclusion, 3DCG anime (and studio Millepensee, in particular) sure has come a long way from Berserk 2016!

SHADOWS HOUSE

I almost didn’t watch SHADOWS HOUSE, which means I almost didn’t watch one of the best shows of the season. Wowzers, man, SHADOWS HOUSE is good. This is one that’s best to go into with as little information as possible, but let me just say that it’s got a delightful cast of characters, surprisingly engaging story arcs that twist and turn in unexpected ways, and an excellent overall aesthetic.

Mars Red

Someone please, please give me a link for a Blu-Ray of this. I’m desperate. I’m absolute trash for dramatic, theatrical-feeling series, and Mars Red absolutely hits that feeling out of the park (and it should, considering it’s an adaptation of a stage drama). It’s gorgeous, it’s heart-wrenching, it has a stunningly beautiful musical score, it’s got an endearing, memorable cast of characters, and its way of including and looking at vampires is delightful. Obviously, because of how heavily it draws on theatre, which is also shown in its slower, deliberate pace, as well as other not-quite-shonen elements, Mars Red is probably not going to resonate with a lot of viewers. However, if this does sound even remotely interesting, I cannot recommend it enough. This was easily in my top three this season, and is a must-watch on this list. (The dub is also very, very good. Recommended viewing experience.)

To Your Eternity

This show has absolutely gutted me and made me cry a lot, and since its second cour is airing as part of the Summer 2021 season, it’s still making me cry, and I don’t appreciate that. I do appreciate, though, how stunningly good the show is, and it’s genuinely making me re-evaluate how good shows can be, and how they stack up to one another. This show is already a resounding 10 for me, and it’s making me look at other shows that I have rated the same and considering “but is it this good?”

I don’t mean for this to sound ridiculous and to not really talk about the show itself, but I think the sheer fact that I’m talking about it in these terms should be enough to express 1) how excellent it is and 2) how quickly you should drop anything else you’re doing and watch this dang show.

My Hero Academia Season 5

I do love MHA, and it’s good to see the super kiddos again, but the first cour of this season was probably one of the slowest in recent memory. There’s definitely some neat story beats in it that are pushing the overall narrative forward in interesting ways, and it’s got some pretty sick fight choreography at times, but taking a good eleven or so episodes to watch Hero Classes A and B duke it out didn’t leave me quite as gripped for the next episode as previous seasons have. (That being said, WOW, the second cour is immediately better than the first, lmao.)

Super Cub

Super Cub scratches some supreme comfy itches for me in the same way that Yuru Camp does, but it does so in its own specific way. While Yuru Camp really explores the joy of one’s passions and hobbies in exquisite ways, Super Cub takes this idea and explores how these sorts of passions or sparks can serve to provide a sense of meaning or purpose for people beyond the monotony of everyday life. I wouldn’t say that this is a must-watch in the way that Yuru Camp is, but if you enjoy a much more pared-back anime experience with some major emphases on tone, environment, and other things that often are not focuses of many anime series, this is definitely worth a watch.

Megalobox 2

And now, it’s time for a small confession: I haven’t finished Megalobox 2! In fact, I haven’t watched past the second episode, and I have a very good reason for it – Megalobox 2 is just way too good. As I watched the first two episodes, I was in absolute agony waiting for the next episodes. This second season takes the incredible highs and lows of the first and, well, it does stuff with them. I absolutely could not bear the idea of not having the entire season at my goopy goblin brain fingertips, so this is one show I opted to wait to plow through the entire season at once. Also, you should watch Megalobox! If you haven’t, what have you been doing?

ODDTAXI

If you don’t watch anything else this season, I am begging you to watch ODDTAXI. I’m not joking, this is hands-down, no question the show of the season. This is another must-go-in-blind show, and trust me, it’s well worth it. You don’t see series as well-written, funny, relatable, dramatic, and just-plain-good as this come around all that often.

Fruits Basket the Final

The thousands of folks who gave this a 1 on MAL out of spite are crybaby cowards that couldn’t bear the thought of a romance series ranking higher than their beloved FMA: Brotherhood (which, to be fair, is genuinely a masterpiece and deserves a high spot in the rankings) or Steins;Gate (which, to be fair, is hilariously overrated). The show is incredible. It’s Fruits Basket. I don’t know what more I can tell ya!

Moriarty the Patriot Part 2

For the record, I’m thrilled that this got a second part. Moriarty the Patriot is easily some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and that does not stop whatsoever in the second part. The last two episodes or so do feel a little stilted, and some of the show’s ideals and plot points can come across as somewhat overly idealistic or naive, but the show as a whole is an absolute delight to watch, in spite of that (also, watching Production I.G.’s Holmes and Moriarty is like watching an uncanny Psycho-Pass AU where Kogami and Makishima got isekai’d as a detective and a criminal mastermind, but in 1800s London). This is more fun than it has any right to be, and I can’t recommend it enough.

DON’T TOY WITH ME, MISS NAGATORO

Fair warning, the first episode is pretty abrasive, and is not exactly what I would call representative of the rest of the season. From what I recall, the first episode is the only one where Nagatoro makes Senpai cry, and from there on, she softens with each episode, as you see the two of them coming to enjoy their weird teasing warfare of sorts. This is definitely not going to be for everyone, as there are elements of the cast who I would file a restraining order against if they were my classmates IRL, but I found this to be , in the end, a genuinely sweet romance between two little gremlins. 

Backflip!!

One of the things that makes a sports show excellent, to me, is when we see the folks actually doing the sport, whether it be competing, training, or anything else that actually gets us to see some competition. This is especially so for shows revolving around sports that have established routines for their athletes, such as Yuri on ICE!!! (Ice Adolescence never, rip). Over the last year, shows in this category, such as Skate-Leading Stars and Gymnastics Samurai, did purport to be about those routine-based sports without, you know, actually really showing us those routines, or even much of the sports. When I saw Backflip!! advertised, I was immediately pretty wary, given that it’s about rhythmic gymnastics (you know, a routine-based sport). The first five minutes of the first episode kicked my teeth in, because WOW, does this show show us some sports. This has easily climbed up to be one of my favorite sports series for a variety of reasons: it’s gorgeous, it has exceptional characters, it does not skimp on the gymnastics, and man, does it have a lot of heart. If you like sports shows in the vein of Free!!, Haikyu!!, Run With the Wind, and others, you owe it to yourself to give this one a go.

Fairy Ranmaru

Buff, queer fairies beat the snot out of the darkness in people’s hearts and get magical girl-styled transformation sequences, complete with huge packages and male-presenting nipples. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, has a lot of fun with its dramatic story beats, and, no joke, provides a few instances of pretty clear, on-the-screen queer representation, and I had an absolute blast with it. It’s absolutely criminal that more people haven’t watched it, and even more criminal that those who did have rated it so low.

Pretty Boy Detective Club

After we finished this, my fiance finally really wanted to give the Monogatari series a go, and anything that acts as a Nisioisin gateway is excellent, in my book. Seriously, though, this show was a delight to watch, full of little gremlins that I’ll have locked tight in my mind for a while to come.

Also, though, it was really cool to see Shaft doing stuff again that wasn’t Magia Record or, god forbid, Assault Lily BOUQUET.

Farewell, My Dear Cramer

I really wanted to like this show, because it feels as though there’s an impossibly slow drip-feed of sports anime series with a predominantly female cast. Unfortunately, between it looking like it had no budget, giving us zero time to really get to know the primary players, and resultantly feeling like its characters are little more than a huge ensemble trope cast, it’s difficult to find much of anything to genuinely enjoy about this show. I get the feeling that this is probably a problem of adaptation, and, you know, a global pandemic wringing a lot of the animation industry dry for a huge swath of airing series, but who knows, man.

ZOMBIE LAND SAGA REVENGE

As another entry in the best idol anime series to date, everyone reading this has a duty and an obligation to watch this. If you liked the first season, you will love this season. It’s such a ride, and it is absolutely worth every single moment of your time.

Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-

Vivy blew my shoes off, blew my socks off, and then blew my head off. It is quite good. I adore Tappei Nagatsuki’s work on Re:ZERO, and as such, I usually trust other projects of his. I wasn’t exactly floored by Warlords of Sigrdrifa from Fall 2020, so I was a little hesitant to get into Vivy for fear of another mediocre project. Thankfully, folks, that was not the case, because Vivy is just straight-up excellent, and it was one of the few shows that really had me chomping at the bit for each week’s new episode. Everyone deserves to, at the very least, give themselves the chance to watch the first two episodes.

Joran the Princess of Snow and Blood

Joran had a…cool premise? I guess? Thinking back, I couldn’t really tell you what made me want to give the show a go aside from its animation style, and that pretty solidly remained as the show’s main appeal, because the story absolutely was not anything to write home about. It took me a good seven episodes to drop it for reasons that I still can’t really pinpoint. I think part of it was just that I had gotten that far into the show, and it would have just felt like a waste to drop it, but each week, the pacing of the story, the directions that it moved in, and a pretty stunning, completely inconsequential body count continued to give me no reason to keep watching it.

TL;DR, you won’t miss anything by not watching this one.

The Saint’s Power is Omnipotent

This was such a surprisingly chill, sweet romance show, and I wish I just had more of it to watch every week. Sei and Hawke are OTP, everyone else can go home. Watch it and be blessed.

BACK ARROW

So, here’s the thing: Back Arrow was created and written by Kazuki Nakashima, directed by Gorou Taniguchi, musically scored by Kouhei Tanaka, has openings by LiSA and Eir Aoi, and has an ending by FLOW. This show certainly has a pedigree, and, well, it is certainly a show! I think it would be a stretch to call Back Arrow a really good show, per se, but man, did I have a lot of fun with it. If you’re looking for a show that feels like a really bizarre fusion of Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, and an uncontrollable fever dream, no joke, I highly recommend it.

86 EIGHTY-SIX

And now for the show that made me cry more on average than any other show this season, 86! This is the one specifically for the “keep your politics out of my anime” chuds, so you can watch them try desperately to explain how war, basically eugenics, and race erasure aren’t political. Hardly a day has gone by since this season ended that I haven’t thought about the Spearhead Squadron, and for their sakes, I’m both thrilled and absolutely terrified that we’re getting a second season (or more realistically, probably just a split cour) in Fall 2021. I can genuinely say, without hesitation, that this is one of the best series I have watched in recent memory. I cannot possibly recommend it enough.

SSSS.DYNAZENON

If you liked SSSS.GRIDMAN, then you’re going to love DYNAZENON. GRIDMAN was a lot of fun and absolutely a love letter to kaiju film and shows (and, obviously, Gridman itself), but DYNAZENON took everything that was good about GRIDMAN, iterated on it, sharpened it to a fine point, and then moved to make it an even more engrossing, character-focused series with handfuls of humor, heartfelt moments, and absolute shock and awe. I’m still kind of shaken by how dang good this show was, even if the ending was a little “eh” when compared to the rest of the series. Trigger was on their A-game with this one, and wow, does it show it.

The World Ends with You The Animation

Look, I’ve been scraping in every nook and cranny I can for over a decade looking for more TWEWY content, but this is not it. I appreciate how the show really nails the visual and sonic aesthetic of the original game, because it looks and sounds great, but TWEWY was not a game that got by on the Rule of Cool. It was an hours and hours-long JRPG with a lot of deeply-layered character development, worldbuilding, systems, and terminology, and trying to condense that into a 12-episode anime adaptation was absolutely never going to work in a satisfying way. This is absolutely unwatchable for someone like myself who really resonated with and appreciated the way the game’s cast developed over long stretches of time. 

To be fair, some game adaptations like this can be quite watchable and even entertaining for viewers who have no context for the original game (the anime adaptation of Conception, for instance, was absolutely buckwild and a joy to watch, probably because I had no frame of reference for the original game), but this is not one of those. The first episode jumped around so much and tossed out so much jargon that the game took time to explain that by the end of the first episode, my fiance looked at me and, essentially, said “I have no idea what just happened,” and she did not mean that in a good way! At least Neo: TWEWY comes out in a few weeks, right?

Those Snow White Notes

I don’t really have much experience with shamisen music aside from, like, Wagakki Band, and I think that was a boon for me going into Those Snow White Notes. This show is, first and foremost, an incredible character-driven drama, but it is one where the music is deeply integral to the story. Even as someone who has no clue about this particular world of music, and, really, probably because of that lack of experience, the music of this show simultaneously sucked me in and absolutely blew me out of the water. It’s been a while since a show like this gripped me quite as much as Those Snow White Notes did, and I really can’t do anything except give it a ringing endorsement. Don’t skip out on this one!

Burning Kabaddi

Dude, Burning Kabaddi was so much more entertaining than I ever thought it would be. I can’t say that it’s up there with other paragons of the sports anime genre like Haikyu!! or Run With the Wind, but, man alive, is it fun to watch. This is one of those sports shows where I loved the characters, as well as the way they presented the game, to such a degree that I actually went hunting down videos of championship matches. Kabaddi is nuts in the absolute best ways, and it’s brain-bending to watch the plays made sometimes, and Burning Kabaddi absolutely succeeds in communicating those aspects of the game. If sports series are your thing, and you want to watch one for a sport that hasn’t really been represented in anime form, give this one a go.

BONUS ROUND
Wonder Egg Priority: My Priority

The absolute gall for this to solve nothing, only give us more questions, not even touch the Frill plot arc, and then, of all things, close us out with a still of the girls all literally just saying, “The end!” transcends comedy. We had a good, like, eight episodes, I guess!

——–

If you’re still here, thanks for reading! It certainly isn’t one of our podcasts, but maybe this will remind my compatriots to not give me this much free rein. See y’all in a few weeks for the resuming of our regularly-scheduled beginning of Summer cast!

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