thin slicing the new season, winter 2021 edition

9,500 words, 25 anime, 15 years, and a Curry Cup Noodle.

The granddaddy of gimmick posts is once again upon us. That’s right– thin slicing has returned!

Thin slicing is based off of Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, a book about– OH FUCK IT. YOU’VE READ THIS SAME BOILERPLATE FOR FIFTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the fifteen year of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome. Next year thin slicing is old enough to drive a car in every state.

Updates on thin slicing are always on my Twitter account.

For people who want to know how this ranking is done, I suggest reading the archived explanation. If you’re like, “This show is ranked too high!” or “Too low!” or “This show has a great ending!” then, well, you don’t know how this works. You don’t need me to validate your taste in anime. And, again, for the sake of time, I don’t rank sequels if I never finished watching the original or if there’s nothing interesting about the sequel. It’s a sequel! Do you need me to tell you to watch the last episodes of Attack on Titan after you already watched fifty episodes? Also I don’t rank shorts or primarily CG shows.

Quick recap from last season:

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#MR. IRRELEVANT. Project Scard: Scar on the Praeter
GoHands

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“Who said you could watch anime?”

Ah, the classic combination of GoHands + Mr. Irrelvant. I have a few questions. One, how is Project Scard: Scar on the Praeter not an already released mobage? It has all the tropes any husbando-collecting mobage would have like the cool guy who dual wields pistols, the k-pop wannabe dude, the masculine but sensitive fellow because he loves his little brother, and the shouta. Strangely missing are the creepy teacher who hits on high school girls, the meathead who lives the GTL lifestyle, and the Fortnite streamer. Two, who decided it was a good idea to keep giving GoHands money to make more anime? Have these investors not seen Hand Shakers and K? What part of those shows impressed the investors? The unnatural and disjointed dialogue? The directionless direction? The overuse of filters that make me wonder if they just couldn’t decide which After Effect plug-ins they like the best so they just put them all in? Hand Shakers sold a whooping 380 copies of its first BD. Surely pouring money into GoHands is as fiscally stable as investing in Dogecoin.

Lastly, who runs a cafe in a war zone? The area is described as a lawless ghetto, yet the main character’s apartment looks like something out of Fixer Upper with Chip and Johanna (just needs even more shiplap). The cafe the other male lead frequents features a giant glass chandelier that somehow isn’t destroyed, an expensive espresso machine with fancy cups, a model boat, and fancy artisanal chocolates that the Fashion Czar assures me costs me a lot. The set lunch is a luxurious omu rice with a side of karaage with a side salad. The most important aspect of this luxury cafe is that there are no customers. How is this cafe not trashed? How are they importing all these high end chocolates into a war zone?

(Mitigating factor: The book the silver-haired bishounen is reading is “To Infinity and Beyond” by Buzz Lightyear.)

(Fashion Czar: “This is the worst CG water that I’ve ever seen.”)


#24. I-CHU
Lay-duce

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“You joined I-CHU because you have dreams, right?”

Oh no I-CHU is a male idol show. Oh no I-CHU is based off of a mobage. Oh no I-CHU mobage was shut down over a year ago. Oh no I-CHU has a revival mobage released recently. It’s yet another male idol show involving groups of men with gimmicks to become… I don’t know… BTS’ entourage? They all just happen to attend a giant villa high school surrounded by a forest in the middle of Tokyo because if we know a city with tons of available real estate, it’s Tokyo. Also, this idol anime is yet another show where a 2005 era camcorder is brought out to film the idols because no one owns a modern camera or a modern mobile phone. I-CHU has all the hallmarks of this genre: Gratituously over-designed costumes, atrocious music, and a shouta character who carries around more stuffed animals than my toddler. The various boy idol groups are hilariously bad. I’ll just give Fashion Czar’s reviews for each:

  • Fire Fenyx: “How are they employees of this company when they are so bad?”
  • Twinkle Bell: “No. No. No. Hell no.”
  • I<3B: “Are they international because they can say ‘Hello!’ in different languages?”
  • ArS: ”Oh no the fire guy has shark teeth.”

(The best part of the show is the CEO who wears a bear costume and a crown and demands that each boy group sells 3,000 CDs a month. One, 3,000 CDs is not a lot for the supposedly largest entertainment group in Japan. Two, who the hell buys CDs? Vinyl sales have already surged past CD sales. Three, seeing how 85% of the revenue in the music industry now is streaming-related, why the hell not get the boys to make streaming-friendly music like songs about Fortnite or lo-fi beats to study to? Why is the criteria CDs sold and not views on YouTube or listens on Spotify? Who has fantasies about gatcha husbandos selling CDs in 2021?)


#23. Soukou Musume Senki
Studio A-Cat

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“I guess there’s someone out there stupider than you.”

Anime has a high amount of country bumpkins moving into Tokyo or Tokyo-ites moving into the country. Why isn’t there an anime about someone from Osaka moving to Tokyo or someone from Hawaii moving to Hokkaido? Soukou Musume Senki is about a country bumpkin girl who moves to Tokyo. At first I thought this show was a train otaku show because we got a lecture on the Tokyo subway system. I wrote in my notes, “Is Soukou Musume Senki in the pocket of big JR because there is no mention of Keio lines at all.” This teenage girl goes to Tokyo for the first time, and where do you think she visits first? Yep. That’s right. She goes shopping… for Gunpla… that she plans on giving her dad. Talk about dad fantasies. While she is carrying around all this Gunpla around Tokyo, she gets isekai’ed.

Yep, she gets transported into a war-torn version of Tokyo where high school girls wearing ridiculous outfits are the only thing preventing humanity from being destroyed by giant bug-like monsters. (Yep, it’s based on a game franchise.) I started shouting “EDF! EDF! EDF!” for some reason. We see a squad of these highly advanced combat high school girls getting escorted by, I’m not kidding, minivans with machine guns stuck on the top of them. At least in Senyoku no Sigrdrifa, the girls were escorted by F-15 fighters. The mission also goes confusingly bad. The girls have to retreat because the enemy is too strong, sacrificing their minivan escorts. They then go back and save isekai girl and somehow defeat most of the enemies while doing so. At no point do the girls ask HQ for help or orders, they kind of just argue amongst themselves and do whatever they want with zero military discipline. The girls seem like they are in a hurry, but at one stop their vehicle, start a fire, and then snack on Caloriemate and Nissin Cup Noodles. This dystopic version of Tokyo somehow has the exact same modern packaging for both of these brands.

(The transformation sequences for the girls are all done in bad CG, and we get to see the exact same sequence repeated five times. The only difference between the accessories on the girls and the color schemes. What’s the point of animating that in CG if we don’t even get different camera angles? Here’s a well-animated transformation sequence from an eight year old anime.)

(Note: This series is technically the fourth Little Battlers Experience anime and also a CG show. I didn’t realize it at first because the first five minutes seemed like a normally drawn anime not related to an obscure game franchise that I’m sure will be a mobage in 6-12 months. I watched it so just decided to add it to thin slicing.)


#22. Gekidol
Hoods Entertainment

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“Amazing! Theaters are amazing! Actors are amazing!”

You know what I find amazing? That Gekidol is an anime. I can imagine a committee trying to decide on their next original anime, and they decide to make an idol anime because the isekai market is saturated and idols are the hot trend of 2012. It’s not just a straight up idols bringing people happiness or some sort of zombie idol or some sort of idols solving murder mysteries setup… nope… there’s a giant ass Made in Abyss-like crater in the middle of Tokyo. This anime shows us a giant crater and has a history school lesson scene explaining there’s a bunch of them on our planet now, and then totally forgets about them for the next twenty minutes. I’m baffled why they decided to go with a giant hole in Tokyo.

The main protagonist is also a typical high schooler who wants to be an actress because she enjoyed watching a movie. She lives by herself in a palatial house in the middle of Tokyo with giant TV in her bedroom. This is a Tokyo that is supposedly devastated by a giant hole, yet she lives alone in a house probably valued over $20 million. We get the obligatory framed picture of her dad and sister with their eyes glared out suggesting that they died in the giant hole or something. Mom is not mentioned at all. Her grandma is out in France visiting her grandpa because of reasons. I don’t see why they spent a two minute sequence explaining why she is alone in this Tokyo mansion. Just animate and cast the damn grandma. She just needs to say “Okaeri nasai”.

Animation is decent, and a lot of the idol scenes are drawn, not CG, which is nice in this day and age. However, it’s not typical idol singing but idol musical theater. The story doesn’t make any sense, the idols don’t dance or move at all, and it feels under-cooked. I do give the show credit for putting some budget into the idol musical theater scenes, but they should have put more effort into the dialogue and story as well.

(There is also a bizarre scene where the recruiter takes our protagonist to meet a guy at a strip club. Why would the recruiter bring an under-aged girl there? And why tell her that he’s the patron of the idol theater group? What was the point of this scene other than foreshadowing that the theater group is a cover for grooming these girls to be future strippers? Am I the only one who thinks something suspicious is going on?)

(Fashion Czar: “She’s an ojou-sama because she’s dressed like either an old woman or an elementary schooler despite being in high school.)


#21. Idoly Pride
JC Staff

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I Can’t Believe My Idol Anime Features So Many Generic Girls or Idoly Pride is yet another idol anime this season. Why are there so many idol anime this season? At least I can understand the isekai boom, but idols? Why are they suddenly overtaking isekai and magic battle high schools? Idol is yet another atrocious genre to over-saturate since there are so many generic idols per generic idol anime that it’s hard to keep track of them. This one has girls named “Rei,” “Kei,” “Rui,” “Yui,” and “Alexander Alexis Rose.” This idol show is about a producer who forms an idol group with the twist being that the main idol gets run over by a car and becomes a ghost who haunts him a la Nanana’s Buried Treasure. I have questions, of course, other than “Why is car accidents such a major cause of death in anime?” The answer is: Lazy writing. Japan’s traffic fatalities is half of America’s. Why hasn’t idol anime explored the “She was killed by an internet stalker” angle? (Too on the nose.) Anyway, why would an idol agency hire a high school kid as a producer and possibly savior? And why would he agree to be hired? Is there a reason beyond him wanting to see the female lead naked? Is he getting paid for his work?

To top it off, idols are judged by what an AI thinks of their social media presence. This AI determines their idol rank. Nothing like some surveillance dystopia in an idol anime. Why is the idol ranking system the same ranking system as a typical mobage? Can you imagine Gordon Ramsay going, “What is this D-tier, Maou Nobu level of shit you’re calling a ‘steak?'”

Animation is strangely competent but is stylized and feels more like a visual novel turned anime than an idol anime. No animation for the first idol performance– just still shots. The second idol performance doesn’t even have vocals. There are times during this show where I feel like I’m watching a Powerpoint presentation breaking down the trailer for Tenet.

(Original story by Jukki Hanada who also did the scripts for Beyond the Boundary, K-On!, Sound! Euphonium, Chuu2, and 2006’s most forgotten anime, Sola.)

(Meet cute: Two girls headbutting each other and then longingly holding hands in front of the idol agency. I’m sure their relationship will not progress further than this point, but in my head cannon they are married and have adopted two pugs. And who says my head cannon isn’t valid? Not like I’m going to watch any more of this show.)


#20. Skate-Leading Stars
JC Staff

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“Based on my calculations, we would be the strongest team.”

Remember when Sword Art Online came out, and then the next thing we know, there were hundreds if not millions of isekai and fantasy anime? Remember when Yuri on Ice came out and then… crickets. Well, over four years after Yuri on Ice, Skate Leading Stars wants to make your heart melt with pretty boys doing triple axels. Except, unfortunately, it’s JC Staff with their subpar animation and bad guitar music and not MAPPA. Also, the sport is not ice skating but some contrived sport called “skate leading.” I thought skate leading was an actual sport so I googled it, and the first results were all for this anime. Well, then. The explanation for what skate leading is given to us via a news show format. It’s exactly what I needed to keep my attention on this show and not get up to get myself some bagel-flavored ice cream. Turns out it is basically five man team ice skating that uses basketball terminology for whatever. Skate leading is nowhere as fun of a sport as keijo.

The first ten minutes of Skate Leading Stars focuses on high school boys talking about the skating accomplishments of this prodigy skater from elementary school. Boring and creepy. Can you imagine if the first ten minutes of D2: The Mighty Ducks is just Hans and Gordon Bombay naked in a hot tub talking about Ken Wu? The last ten minutes involve the main character just randomly deciding to enter a figure skating competition (we haven’t gotten to any actual skate leading yet) and nailing a quadruple axel despite not having figure skated for four years. This turn of events is even less believable than the School Rumble high school basketball game that hit a combined 400 points.

(Skating Leading Stars is from the mind that brought us Mai Hime and Code Geass and is currently directing Back Arrow… Goro Taniguchi. He is a busy guy. And he is supposedly working on the Code Geass sequel. How do you go from Code Geass to figure skating back to Code Geass? Was he like, “I want to create more Code Geass, but I have a great idea for a figure skating that I want to make first…”)

(Fashion Czar: “This is dumb. This is dumb in a dumb way and too serious for this stupidity.”)


#19. Hortensia Saga
Liden Films

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Don’t go thinking you can get stronger alone.”

At first, I got Hortensia Saga confused with Record of Wortenia War. Saga is a mobage turned anime while War is a light novel waiting to be turned into an anime. Hortensia Saga is a dull and generic fantasy anime with next to zero personality. One could say that it’s this season’s King’s Raid if that didn’t have a second season this season thanks to all those mobage bucks. The name of the main character pretty much says it all: Alfred Albert. It’s no Uncle Dis or Stunk. The series also opens up with a dreadfully boring but serious coup attempt on a kingdom with knights getting hacked to pieces, and a very out of place mascot character (with a drawn butthole because why the heck not) doing some random mascot comedy as townsfolk are betting trampled and murdered.

The world building itself is dreadfully pathetic. The show references dates using our calendar system. Can you imagine if Frodo asked Sam, “Hey, is it February yet?” Most of the history is given to us via dialogue over some bad CG books that make Fire Emblem’s cut scenes look like they were drawn by Hikeaki Anno. No, not Fire Emblem Three Houses… Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. The major battle sequences are poor animated and really fail to convey any sense of action or drama. The action also makes no sense. Animation is rough and has all the hallmarks suggesting a mobage in decline. This show is yet another piece of kindling for the bonfire that burns forgettable fantasy mobages turned anime.

(Does anyone in this show have a mom who is still alive? It seems like all the main characters do not have moms.)


#18. Dr. Ramune: Mysterious Disease Specialist
Platinum Vision

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“Mayonnaise is coming out of my eyes.”

“Are you using spy cameras to spy on other people?”

“Condiments can be sweet or sour, like people’s lives.”

“From the looks of it, it looks like there is a considerable amount of condiments built up in her body.”

“Your penis is definitely a chikuwa fish cake.” (Note: I’m assuming they mean a fish surimi cake and not the dog from Yuru Camp.)

The quotes from Dr. Ramune Mysterious Disease Specialist are great. The rest of the show… not so great. It is a fairly blunt and heavy-handed morality play coupled with spiritual elements. I didn’t care for the morality aspect because it oversimplifies too much, rushes a bit too fast, and never feels earned. There’s a similar story in Great Teacher Onizuka as the first episode of this anime where Onizuka goes to his student’s house and tears down a literal wall. Over time, the tearing down of that wall gets the student’s parents to talk to her more and remember what life was like before they got rich. Here, the parent gets whiplash from changing their personality so fast, and it’s hard to believe her personality would shift so fast because her daughter cries mayonnaise. But what GTO doesn’t have is a girl crying ketchup and mayonnaise and also slow motion shots of mayo and mustard being poured out of bottles that are hilariously bad.

(Also Onizuka genuine cares for this students where the doctor here has the same sniveling demeanor that Dr. Stone has. I think a key to these shows is to have likeable and sympathetic characters, which Dr. Ramune lacks.)

(Fashion Czar: “Oh no. They didn’t have the budget to animate the opening so they just used clips from the show. She’s crying mayonnaise in the opening. Is it so central to the show that they put it in the opening?”)


#17. たとえばラストダンジョン前の村の少年が序盤の街で暮らすような物語
Linden Films

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“But I’m very weak.”

たとえばラストダンジョン前の村の少年が序盤の街で暮らすような物語 wins the Inaugural たとえばラストダンジョン前の村の少年が序盤の街で暮らすような物語/Tatoeba Rasuto Danjon Mae no Mura no Shounen ga Joban no Machi de Kurasu Yō na Monogatari/Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town Most Ridiculous Anime Name of the Season Award. Maybe centuries from now, the name of this anime will become a treasured poem in the literary history of Japanese culture.

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town is a slapstick fantasy adventure that boils down to “What if Beyblade characters could defeat any monster with one punch?” I cannot stress how badly the characters are designed. Lloyd Belladonna, the main character, looks like a rejected draft for a Beyblade character, and he looks the best. The rest of the cast have some of the ugliest outfits that I have seen in recent anime. They are over-designed by someone who rebels against the Uniqlo aesthetic. The witch’s hat has like four different layers, three different flairs, plus a few random accessories on top. Not even a Chili’s waitress would wear that. It looks more like a purple Christmas tree than a witch’s hat. The outfits are more puzzles for cosplayers to solve than actual practical outfits that fit the world.

The gags aren’t doing anything for me. It feels like I’m eavesdropping into a conversation full of in-jokes that I have no prior background for. It’s like something visiting this blog for the first time wondering, “What the fuck is ‘OH GEASS NO’ and why is Escaflowne referenced so often?” That feeling is made worse because the male lead already knows all of the haremettes so it seems like we got dropped in episode five of a typical harem series. The main gag that Lloyd is actually super powerful but thinks he is super weak isn’t interesting at all. Even One abandoned it in One Punch Man after around thirty chapters.

(Chrome Molybdenum is now my favorite anime character name. Move over Uncle Dis, Alfred Albert, and Banana Links.)

(Fashion Czar: “I don’t even know where to start reading that logo. We’ve gone too far.”)


#16. Wave!!: Surfing Yappe!!
Asahi Production

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“The sight of him riding the waves… no matter how much time passed, it never faded from my heart.”

There are a lot of sports anime debuting this season, but yet no baseball anime or any anime about the 202X Tokyo Olympics. I’m disappointed that there really weren’t any anime about the Olympics other than the bad diving show a few years back and really disappointed that Tokyo Tarareba Girls, the premier manga about the Tokyo Olympics, did not get an anime adaptation. Anyway, Wave!!: Surfing Yappe!! is a surfing anime featuring bishounen that is just begging to be turned into a mobage. The first three minutes are just bad CG surfers on bad CG water as an announcer gives overviews of the 8+ characters. The show peaked when the announcer said, “The Mage of the Waifu Board.” Each overview ends with a slow mo shot of the surfer and then their reflection in droplets of water. Actually, there are a lot of reflections in this anime– reflections in water, reflections in sunglasses, reflections in pupils, but no self-reflection on how vapidly boring the characters are.

The main character is nicknamed “Hello Corgi” not because he owns an adorable five star SSR corgi but because he doesn’t know how to swim so he just doggy paddles when he tries to surf. I’m not a surfing expert, but wouldn’t swimming be a prerequisite skill? He is also extremely thirsty for the new male transfer student in the class. The main character never asks or watches his ukulele friend surf, but after the transfer student arrives, he can’t stop watching the transfer student surf. There’s even a badly animated scene where the main character bolts out of the house with the corgi (the corgi looks like it just floats) to go watch the new kid surf. He then watches the transfer student surf for twelve hours. Doesn’t eat or drink, and luckily his little sister shows up to fetch the corgi or else the corgi would have passed out in the sand.

The occasional CG shots are disorienting… like we don’t need to see a random shot of three CG people talking from above. The ending is just a budget CG scene of bad CG water. They should have just literally filmed the ocean because it would have been more interesting.

(This show takes place in Ooarai, which is famous for being the hometown of Girls and Panzer.)

(Fashion Czar: “There’s a waifu surfboard and a corgi. That’s all I need to know.”)

(Editor’s note: As of episode 5, this show still doesn’t have a Wikipedia page and is hovering around 6.2 with only 900 users on MAL. Hortensia Saga is around 5.6 with 28,000 users for a comparison.)


#15. Kemono Jihen
Ajia-do Animation Works

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“Us guys shouldn’t care how we smell.”

Kemono Jihen is like if someone watched Mob Psycho 100 and went, “This show needs more furries, and we need to replace Reigen with someone more generic and more kidnappy.” This show is yet another yokai detective show slash morality play slash kiddie X-Men. Overall, the show feels very bland and average with the most memorable scene being how the inn being investigated in the first episode assigns middle school school boys to give back rub to random men who stay at the inn. Then the men get to have dinner with the boys alone in their rooms. Am I the only person who batted an eye at this plot point? Forget the murderous boars– why does this inn loan out little boys to people staying at the inn?

The conclusion to the first episode has the detective fabricating a way to kidnap a boy and take him back to his home in Tokyo. I don’t care if the boy was mistreated at the inn– the detective could have called the police– but the detective has absolutely no qualms about just stealing a boy. And then it’s revealed that he’s also housing a bunch of other kids too. Maybe we should have someone investigating this detective because this seems like a setup for a very special episode of Law and Order: SUV. No, I can’t get over the fact that the basis of this show is kidnapping a child, much like how the basis of Ascendence of a Bookworm is bodily theft and murder and both these shows just totally gloss over these serious crimes.

(The detective has sunglasses over his hair that cover his Geass eye. It’s pretty silly. Hair kinda flops around everywhere and is bad at covering an eye… why not just go with an eyepatch?)


#14. Heaven’s Design Team
Asahi PRoduction

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“Designs must pass a series of tests to make sure that they can survive on earth.”

Is one of the tests either being able to destroy humans or being delicious to humans? Because other than those two criteria, I’m not sure if their existence on earth can be guaranteed. Heaven’s Design Team was a manga that I wanted to like, but it just felt boring– the anime is no different. The concept of this ragtag team creating creatures to populate earth with is original in the realm of anime, but the cast is devoid of any personality (a sure sign is that the more over-designed and over-flaired a character is, the more boring they area). The characters don’t even feel like walking tropes and instead they feel like a single bullet point on a Powerpoint presentation. The main character has the personality of a drink coaster and does not contribute to any scene other than being a spectator. I doubt that he’s going to have an Akudama Driver Swinder transformation as the show progresses. Also, if the fashion sense of this design team is any indication of their design skills, then the earth is in for a wild ride. The dialogue feels like it was ripped off from either Silicon Valley or Halt and Catch Fire. “Oh, it’s fine, it’s just a demo.” “New and fun frogs are always welcome.”

The self-contained stories go by without overstaying their welcome, but the general concept ends up being a bit repetitive. The characters are also mostly in the same room with the same outfits like this is a budget theatre play or low budget, 2010-era do nothing afterschool club anime. The thing is that I’ve already seen a Heaven’s Design Team or, really, a Bad Place Design Team. It’s like someone saw the snippets of Ted Danson designing animals for his “good place” and decided to make a show based on just that aspect. Another issue of the show is that it sticks a bit too closely to the manga art design, which is not the best to begin with. (I do like the derpy infographic style, like of the cow’s internal bacteria and the derpy horse with a butthole during the Steve Job’s homage’s presentation.


#13. 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team
David Production

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“You had the nerve to say that I’m wasting my life.

If Haikyuu were a double-double from In-and-Out, then 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team would be a Jack-in-the-Box cheeseburger that might have been dropped on the floor at some point. Yes, both anime are about volleyball clubs that go from zero to hero. Yes, both anime feature a genius setter who couldn’t get along with his teammates. Yes, both anime feature that dynamic zoom-in of a spiker whenever they spike. Yes, both male leads are as mismatched as a couple as AC Slater and Jessie Spano but somehow still love each other so very much. Even one of the main characters, Chika, looks like Haikyuu’s Tsuki. However, that is where the similarities end. Production quality for 2.43 is lacking and has the energy of One Punch Man season two. The main character blushes a lot– more than a Ghibli heroine– to the point of distraction.

There is also a side plot where half the school is the main character’s cousins, and he’s not-so-secretly attracted to one of his cousins. There is another side plot involving adult hoodlums who hang around high schools. This show can’t decide if it is a sports drama or a melodrama and tries to do both and can’t do either well. Unfortunately, if you enjoyed Haikyuu and were sad to see it end, well, 2.43 is not going to satisfy that itch.

(Why are there so many flip phones in this show? Why are people using cordless phones? The light novel originially debuted in 2015 but feels like 1995.)


#12. Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu
Millepensee

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“I wish I could have lost my virginity.”

Male in his late thirties gets hit by a truck and utters, “I wish I could have lost my virginity,” right before he dies as if he were talking directly to the audience. Gee. I wonder what genre could Mushouko Tensai: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu (Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go to Another World) be? I guess to be fair to both Hayate the Combat Butler and Tonikaku Kawaii, neither of those shows are isekai despite opening with a virgin getting run over by a truck. The setup for this isekai power fantasy is that the loser male lead gets reborn as a perverted baby with his thirty-something year old brain. He is a magic prodigy and ends up getting a harem, and the twist is that he will “try” in this life. Nevermind the trying… he has an overpowered ability to start with so there’s really no comparison to his Earth life where he didn’t have an overpowered ability.

Almost the entire first episode is the main character narrating over himself and becomes a homeless man’s version of Look Who’s Talking. The world-building is, once again, dreadful– if they are going to take RPG and isekai shortcuts, why not just say, “Hey, I’m in a typical power fantasy isekai,” and jump to him saving the world and acquiring a harem because that would just cut to the chase instead of having to introducing leveling up systems, magic circles, and other nonsense that we’ve seen in other isekai fantasy light novels turned anime.

Animation is surprisingly decent for an isekai franchise that doesn’t have a mobage (yet). However, there wasn’t an OP/ED in the first episode, which is never a good sign for a production, so maybe the animation will falter in a few episodes down the line.

Three good things about this show: One, the main character is reborn as a baby and doesn’t just steal the body of a little kid like in Ascendance of a Bookworm or Wonder Woman 1984. Two, the dad walks around shirtless most of the episode similar to how the dad in Elaina the Traveling Witch is always eating strawberry shortcake. The dad is also constantly boning the mom, which really should have been a subplot of K-On!. Three, this anime actually shows people pooping matter-of-factly. Imagine if Game of Thrones had scene where Robert breaks off conversation with Ned, goes to the toilet (where the cameras follow him), poops, and then comes back and resumes conversation with Ned (without washing his hands of course).


#11. Kumo desu ga, Nanika?
Millepensee

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“If I had to reincarnate, why did it have to be a spider? I’m a spider. I better accept it.”

The best part of Kumo desu ga, Nanika? (So I’m a Spider, So What?) is that it starts with a school just blowing up. There are no further pretenses for this isekai other than the school just combusting and reincarnating everyone in a fantasy world. At least it is not a car crash or dying of overwork. The first fifteen minutes of this show follows a poor girl reincarnated as a spider in CG sequences that rivals the production quality of Cocomelon. I started singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider. The monsters are poorly animated, and the area is too dark. Of course, it wouldn’t be an isekai if it didn’t rely on RPG shortcuts and tropes. Oh good, somehow the spider levels up and gains skills as if it were Skyrim. Fan-fucking-tastic. The main character was described as a shut-in NEET (who somehow was at school when it exploded), but the way the spider acts does not match that. If she was a gloomy shut-in, how did she suddenly become such an energetic and talkative spider who dances around a lot?

All of that jolly cannibalistic spider energy promptly disappears in the last five minutes where the scene switches to a very lifeless formal ball that doesn’t have any music playing. What kind of ball doesn’t have music? We get a very standard “She’s the Duke’s daughter, a prodigy, and incredibly cute!” description of a character followed by an incest joke. We then get a revelation that a decent amount of people at this ball are other people in the the school who got reborn… which begs the obvious question as if the spider popped out of an egg, did these humans get reborn? Or did they just take over the bodies of previous humans a la Ascendance of a Bookworm? Then we get to the ED which is a spider parody of Baby Metal.

(Dear isekai authors, please come up with new ways for people to die in Japan and be reborn in a fantasy world that somehow follows the rules of Skyrim. I have a few suggestions: Drowning from a sneaker wave, choking on New Year mochi, being crushed by a falling pallet of toilet paper at Costco, eating poisonous fugu, being mobbed by deer at Nara, and passing out from staying under a kotatsu for too long.)

(Fashion Czar: “She just bit into za waruldo. How edgy.”)


10. Kaifuku Jutsushi no Yarinaoshi
TNK

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“It seems like you’re feeling heroic down there.”

They way the main character, Keyaru, in Kaifuku Jutsushi no Yarinaoshi (Kaiyari) appends, “HEAL!” at everything reminds me of the episode of The Office where Michael just runs around shouting, “BANKRUPTCY!” combined with the old man on The Simpson’s PTA episode that just goes, “That’s a paddin’”. Killing demon birds? Heal! Stealing someone’s memories? Heal! Traveling back in time? Heal! Heating up microwaveable curry? Heal! Growing someone’s arm back? Heal! Having sex with a meido? Heal! Besides screaming “Heal!” every other sentence, the main character is like if Tenchi Muyo finally snapped. Here is the Wikipedia summary for this show:

“Keyaru, who is exploited/raped repeatedly by others due to being a healing magician, notices what lays beyond just his healing magic, and is convinced that a healing magician is the strongest class in the world. However, by the time he realizes his own potential, he is already deprived of everything. Thus, he uses healing magic on the world itself to go back four years into the past, deciding to redo everything and get revenge on the ones who exploited him by raping them.”

So even though this show is a fantasy show, it still has RPG shortcuts because Oharuhi-sama forbid we spend any time on actual world-building. The main character has an RPG hex chart that might as well be out of a tabletop RPG. The way magic works only makes sense if you’ve played a JRPG or two. All world-building and character development is cut or truncated because we need to get the sex. Yes, this show has not two but three different versions because of all the sex and sexual violence: A censored broadcast version, a Japan streaming-exclusive “Redo” version, and an uncensored “Complete Recovery Version.” I’m sure a fourth BD-exclusive “Penetrating Heal” version is in the future. Watching the censored version, there are a lot of black boxes and jump cuts that obviously indicate a missing scene or two. Animation is surprisingly good even though this show wants to be a full on hentai and do a collab with Peter Grill.

(I always wonder in these shows that reverse time, do the planets and stars return back to where they were in space-time? What about other civilizations on other planets? What if at this specific moment in time, Obi-wan had the high ground against Anakin, but because time rewound due to this healing bozo, Anakin somehow now had the high ground?)


#9. Ore dake Haireru Kakushi Dungeon
Okuruto Noboru

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“I guess the rich definitely have the upper hand.”

The character names for Ore dake Haireru Kakushi Dungeon are the best part of this show: Noir Dungeon, Emma Brightness, Luna Healer, and Olivia Servant. The second best part of the show? All the gratuitous smooching. The loser male lead, Noir Dungeon, has basically all the RPG cheats, but they take a toll on his life or soul or whatever points. The only way to replenish them? Doing ecchi stuff with nubile haremettes. Also, it just so happens that Emma Brightness, his childhood friend, desperately wants his, uh, maleness, so she is more than happy to oblige with his requests. We get a full 15 second montage summarizing Olivia’s life until she met Noir that doesn’t really explain why she is so thirsty for his lovin’. That’s all about the character development that we get too because the rest of the show is just vignettes where we can see how powerful Noir is or how horny Emma is. World-building is so flimsy that the first scene is a pictogram food pyramid explaining how the class system in this world works.

The character designs are awful and mismatched. Noir looks like a pauper from a high school production of Les Miserables. Emma is super over-designed and wears the same kind of form-fitting spandex comic book heroes wears. How do they make her outfit in this fantasy world?

(I did enjoy how the slimes shout, “YABAII!” when they die.)

(Fashion Czar: “I’d like to think that the rich wouldn’t want a job where they endanger themselves in dungeons.”)


#8. Back Arrow
Studio VOLN

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“That lady risked her life to give me undies.”

I think the mahjong and the ramen episodes of The Day I Became a God were some of the best comedic anime that I’ve seen in a long time… and then like all Jun Maeda anime post-Clannad, it just fell apart. There was no need to have a shadow government conspiracy involved. There was no reason to have a dad there who abandoned– no– discarded his sick daughter. There was no reason to have an episode where the main character just yelled at poor Odin. Totally unrelated to what I just wrote, Kazuki Nakashima has gone Gurren Lagann, KILL la KILL, Promare, Brand New Animal, and now Back Arrow. Once I saw the scene were a naked man gets his butt bit by a pack of toddlers, I was like, “Wait, where have I seen this before?”

Back Arrow feels like a JRPG from the Grandia/Grandia II era. There are warring factions trapped on a continent surrounded by a barrier, giant mecha that people transform into by slapping slap bracelets on their biceps, and the main characters are easily identified since they look like Moira Rose while all the unimportant characters look like Joceyln. I do like how out there and energetic the show is. The animation is above average too. However, the story and scenario are quite boring (Sword Art Online Aliciazation wants its map back), and the characters have been walking tropes so far. Also, the main character’s name is “Back Arrow,” which steals the Uncle Dis Memorial Best and Worst Name of a Season Award from Chrome Molybdenum and former runner-up Alfred Albert. But the part that I’m worried about is that this show wants to discuss class struggles, and I’m not sure if Nakashima-san is up to that task after watching BNA.

(Why hasn’t Disney sent them a cease and desist over the speeder design?)

(Fashion Czar: “Why does this feel like an old 90s/00s Sunrise anime?” Editor’s Note: Probably because the sexy cowgirls are taken from 90s Sunrise anime Cowboy Bebop, and the ridiculous mecha is taken from 90s Sunrise anime G Gundam. The scenario is as absurd as 00s Sunrise anime Mai Otome. Though it is disqualified from being a Sunrise anime because they had a total fake out of OP and instead of giving away the whole story, it actively misled the viewer.)


#7. Otherside Picnic
Liden Films

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“That was so scary! Super scary!”

Otherside Picnic is a horror anime, and it announces immediately that it is a horror anime with our main heroine bemoaning her student loans. *shudders* Not even Junji Ito would touch that topic. This isekai has an interesting premise where two girls visit another world to harvest materials by defeating or stealing from monsters. I’m okay with that concept in theory. In execution with respect to Otherside Picnic, it’s not so great. My main issue is that all the monsters are memes or copypastas from Japanese imageboards from years ago. That just loses a lot in translation to an English audience that isn’t familiar with them. Googling “wiggle waggle” only leads to results for children’s books about dogs. I’m not sure if this show needed that internet meme angle.

The other issue is that the heroine and her partner are completely and woefully unprepared for their adventures. You know the first episode of Yuru Camp where Nadeshiko just randomly decides to bike far from her house, gets lost in the middle of the night, and doesn’t have a way of calling home to be bailed out by Rin and her curry noodles? The girls of Otherside Picnic is pretty much that while wearing ridiculous high heels all the time.

Still, at least the show tries to do something interesting with yuri relationships, out-worldly realms, and horror. Unfortunately, there’s another, better executed show this season trying to nail all three of those categories too.

(Fashion Czar: “I can’t believe that they are going to the other world while wearing high heels.”)

(Meet cute: Partner dives into a giant ass puddle to save the main character from a walking Japanese meme.)


#6. Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun
Project No. 9

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“Sure, in life, I might be on the losing team. But not in virtual life.”

For a video game-based harem comedy, on a scale of 1 to High Score Girl, Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki-kun (Jaku-kyara Tomozaki-kun) is a solid Wii Fit Trainer out of 10. The titular character is a star online player of Yotendo’s TACKFAM which is more or less a Super Smash Bros clone… in fact, Nintendo should be driving over and giving them a cease and desist because that stage looks too much like Final Destination. This show is kinda watchable– Funimation, you have my permission to print that on the back of your BD covers– because it is so dumb in concept. It is a teenage make-over romcom featuring an unholy marriage of Super Smash Brothers and She’s All That, which would be a killer ideal for a Netflix original She’s All That 2: Super Smash. There are so many dumb things in this show. Let’s start with the dialogue:

“That’s a gamer’s biggest sin: Blaming the game when you lose!” Tomozaki should play Dota 2 if he wants a game where you don’t have to blame the game for losing. You can blame your teammates instead. And if they blame you, just go, “Volvo plz nerf Sven.”

“I don’t really want to believe that TACKFAM’s best player is our school’s biggest loser.” Of course the hot, rich, academically successful girl, Aoi, is the world’s second best online TACKFAM player. This coincidence is a bigger fantasy than having Belldandy answer K1’s phone call. Also, the fantasy keeps getting better because Aoi just randomly asks out the top TACKFAM players on the ladder and has nothing to do all day except hang around these TACKFAM enthusiasts. I keep stressing online because Oharuhi-sama forbid IRL tournaments or have Twitch streams happen in Japan. Also, she isn’t even this show’s biggest fantasy– it’s that Nintendo put an actual, usable online chat component into Smash. Now that’s never going to happen.

“I despise normies like you, with your rich, offline lives!” Feels like he is about to die and be reborn in a fantasy world where he gets an attempt to actually try at life.

“Life is a god-tier game, as copypasta puts it.” Great, life should be a boss in Otherside Picnic.

There are also other dumb things too, like how Aoi keeps sprinkling parmesan on her pasta for a solid 90 seconds. She must love parmesan as much as she loves dash cancels. Also, when she starts to makeover Tomozaki, her first piece of advice for him was to wear a cloth mask. No, not to prevent the community spread of COVID-19 but so he can practice smiling behind the mask all day long and not be a weirdo. Brilliantly dumb.

(Meet cute: What are the odds that the two top online TACKFAM players sit next to each other in high school? Better or worse than the odds of a school exploding and sending everyone to a fantasy world?)


#5. SK8 the Infinity
Bones

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“Do you have any pet Canadian phrases?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

The funniest part of SK8 is that it is supposed to be an underground skateboarding show, and the Japanese main character, Reki, arrives at the underground skateboarding location in a Mini Cooper. If that’s what the Japanese thinks skate culture is… wow. This show is Free! meets bad male idols on skateboards with some OH GEASS NO tossed in. And then I looked at the cast list… okay, Utsumi-san is the director and creator, and she was the director and creator of Free!. The main writer is Ookouchi-san, who is best known for writing Code Geass. It all makes sense.

Reki is teamed up with a Canadian lead named Langa. Langa is a former snowboarder, and he is basically Takumi in his 86 while Reki is basically Takumi’s mechanic. The show tosses in some nice touches about Langa’s Canadianness like how he constantly apologizes and not in a Higurashi way. When he tries to sit Japanese style, he starts to squirm because he’s not used to it. I think that’s a nice touch. The first episode features a race between Langa and Shadow, who can be best described as an attempt at a Juggalo on Rupaul’s Drag Race. The race itself is fantastic, and the finale of the race is a better version of Wonder Woman and Steve flying over fireworks in their invisible jet. Animation for the skateboarders is also excellent, though the backgrounds get repetitive and are a bit bland. But the best part is as the race is going down this abandoned mine, a guy is staring at a huge wall of monitors watching these high school boys race while naked and petting a cat. SK8 is goofy, dumb, and revels in it.

(Looking over Ookouchi-san’s resume… Angelic Layer, Azumanga, Planetes, Negima, Code Geass, Shigofumi, Guilty Crown, Kabaneri, Princess Principal, Devilman Crybaby, and the Lupin series where Lupin steals Dogecoins. That’s quite a resume. If he wants to write an anime for you, you have to say “Yes” right?)

(Fashion Czar: “I like how dumb this show is.”)


#4. 5Toubun no Nanayome
C-Station

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“I’m going to keep staring at you until you tell me the truth.”

I really enjoyed 5Toubun no Hanayome’s first season, and I ended up reading all of the manga shortly afterward. 5Toubun is the spiritual successor to the 90s/00s harem anime (not you Nisekoi) that has been pretty much extinct since Amagami SS, which was eleven years ago. So, of course, the quints are the first anime that I decided to watch in 2021. I did not expect it to start with an episode about vaccinations. It’s still the same Futarou and the same five– err– six– err– five quintuplets. What has changed is the anime studio, going from Tezuka to Bibury (only previous work is Azur Lane). The character designs look less like the manga, and Futaro looks less detailed while the Nakano quints look more detailed. I think it’s a Minami-ke season one to two situation unfortunately.

The show is best when it is frantic and chaotic and full of energy, and I have no idea how they plan on compressing the final volumes so we get to the wedding. The pacing has been surprisingly off and might end with a rush job which is a damn shame because we would miss out the beach episode where the quintuplets do not show up. No, seriously, Negi-sensei, how do you make a harem manga with quintuplets and not have them appear in the beach chapter?

(Having the quints sing both the OP and ED further makes this show feel like a quintessential 90s/00s harem anime. I don’t know another show this season that has the cast sing the OP or ED let alone both.)

(I totally gave away who the end girl is with this entry didn’t I? It’s the mysterious sixth quint: Alfred Albert.)


#3. Wonder Egg Priority
CloverWorks

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“You don’t like dreams? You prefer reality? I’m a magical capsule machine, after all.”

Every once in a while, I’ll watch a new anime and go, “What was that?” and be pleasantly surprised (e.g. Wave Listen to Me and The Great Pretender) . I knew nothing about Wonder Egg Priority beforehand, and it pleasantly surprised me. This show feels like a movie where a heroine gets lost between reality and dreams with themes of life, death, and friendship pursued in interesting ways. At first I thought it was going to be a show about magic or friendship, and then murderous dolls show up and draw blood.

The production value of this show is amazing– the animation is fluid and realistic (especially since I watched Hortensia Saga right before and something feels off with the running animation in that show), the sound design fits the mood and is interesting, backgrounds are detailed and beautiful, direction and scenes are thought out, and even the toilet paper was well-animated. Lighting on faces subtly changes when characters leave buildings or look out windows. At first I thought CloverWorks puts its crack team from Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia on the project, but, no, it is a separate team. CloverWorks can field multiple shows that give Kyoto Animation a run for its money. The director’s only previous work was the semi-dreadful 22/7 about idols who receive orders from a strange room, and the scenario designer’s previous works were all live action dramas. I’m just puzzled at how much I’m enjoying this show.

(Fashion Czar: The production quality of this show is amazing. The animation, the colors, the number of outfits she has.”)


#2. Hori-san to Miyamura-kun
CloverWorks

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“Here’s a little known fact about me: I love flat-chested girls!”

Hiro-san to Miyamura-kun (Horimiya) is yet another delightfully animated anime from CloverWorks this season. How do they handle three anime at the same time? Anyway, this show feels like a Gilgamesh King of Kings version of Tsuki ga Kirei (romance anime from 2017 where the male lead punches a pull light switch whenever he’s mad or sad or madsad because he’s a teen). Horimiya is a high school romance story, somewhere between a harem anime and a shoujo anime, but with a more realistic slice-of-life feel. I like how the characters feel like individual people with their own goals and criteria for success or failure. They are also cute in their own ways too. I also like how mundane Hiro’s and Miya’s relationship is– they aspire to eat cake while watching TV together. The little sister who can’t stop saying “baka” is fantastic too. Hiro and Miyamura both have actual parents. The show has a pleasasnt, heart-warming vibe in a world desperately needing pleasant, heart-warming vibes.

The manga originally started in 2011 about a week before the iPhone 4S launched, and everyone in this show carries around an old school flip phone from 2006 which just seems so archaic now. I wouldn’t have mind if they updated the phones to modern phones and talk apps instead of whatever strange UI DOCOMO was using back in 2006.

(Mitigating factor: While the show features realistic-looking characters, why do all the male characters have wacky hair colors with eye colors that match their hair color like they are from a bad boy idol anime/mobage?)

(Sunrise should rip off this OP for a Gundam series. Sunrise, please, give the people what they want and just show five hot pilots with their shirts unbuttoned in front of giant mobile suits as the wind blows around them.)

(I do like the ED that looks like a 2009 era Facebook game. Ah, nostalgia for something that happened a long time ago but still feels recent. Ah how we went from Farmville to Genshin Impact…)


#1. Yuru Camp S2
C-Station

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“I’m going to make the quintessential camping meals: Curry rice!”

I do like seeing younger Rin struggle with camping before she became the Kira Yamato of winter camping. I mean, really, if you enjoyed the first season of Yuru Camp (Laid-Back Camp) back in 2018, it’s easy to roll into this new season and feel 2019, 2020, and the first month of 2021 never happened. If you haven’t seen Yuru Camp yet, go back and watch the first season, and you’ll either be like, “This anime is much better than Rebuild of Evangelion” or “I like coffee black, like my heart.” The animation, scenery backgrounds, thematic background music, and doggos are still top notch. The staff at C-Station put in some love into their work, and it shows. This show has some of the best drawn Curry Cup Noodle that I’ve seen. Is there a Yuru Camp x Cup Noodle collab going on in Japan? I would want some of that merch. Also, you know you have a good friend when they offer you a Curry Cup Noodle.

Two things that I appreciate about this anime: One, the cast feel like actual high schoolers. They are not walking tropes but rather feel like people who you could be friends with and go camping with (Yuru Camp x Horimiya collab when?). It’s the complete opposite of the Adachi to Shinamura yuri bait anime from last season where the characters acted like fantasies of a 35 year old man. Two, the parents (both Rin’s and Nadeshiko’s) are actual parents who do actual parenting. They don’t just leave for America or die in a traffic accident. Rin’s mom has backup snacks (like all good moms), and her dad takes an honest interest in his daughter’s hobby. He doesn’t just drive her to the campsite, but he also helps her plan her route and trip. Fundamentally, Yuru Camp is a show about good parents raising good kids who end up having fun and making memories and get to pet all the good doggos. That simple premise of showing joyful families makes the show rare and interesting even if nothing seems interesting about high school girls camping in the dead of winter.

(Fish broiler! When we were remodeling our kitchen, I wanted a fish broiler integrated into the stovetop range, but, you might not believe this, we couldn’t find one for sale in America. You also can’t import foreign appliances easily either. My dream range would combine the gas burners that I have now, a fish broiler, and the retractable oven from The Great British Bake Off. Samsung, LG, Neff, Miele, or Bosch– get on it.)

(Fashion Czar: “I appreciate it whenever anime doesn’t have the character have the same hair in their child flashback as they do in the present. This show gets something else right too: Dogs.”)

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See you next season.

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