thin slicing the new season, fall 2021 edition

9,500 words, 27 anime, and 15,532 isekais kick off the 16th year of thin slicing.

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 SIXTEEN YEARS NOW. You either get how this works by now or not. And, yes, it’s the sixteenth year of thin slicing since it began with ranking Nanoha A‘s over Mai Otome. Thin slicing is almost old enough to vote.

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 Demon Slayer after you already bought all of their Funkopops? Also I don’t rank shorts, non-Japanese cartoons, or primarily CG shows.

Quick recap from last season:

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#MR. IRRELEVANT. Visual Prison
A-1

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“WHAT LIES BEYOND BRO”

Sometimes watching anime for thin slicing feels like a visual prison, especially if there’s a run of bad isekai back-to-back. Luckily, Visual Prison isn’t an isekai. Unluckily, it’s a male idol show slash mobage commercial. When the cast is one female actress and fifty no-name male actors, there’s only two possible genres. This show’s gimmick is that the male idols are all in visual kei bands, and it’s 2021 so who in their right mind would be a visual kei band stan? Isn’t that like if someone really likes golf rock in 2021? If you were in high school in 2021, and your best friend had a poster of Darius Rucker on his wall, wouldn’t you consider an intervention? Anyway, the visual kei band aspect is actually great because it gives us great names like “Hyde Jayer” and “Guiltia Bryon.” I know what I’ll name my characters in New World once I can login in 2046.

Sadly, the band names are totally boring with “Eclipse,” “Oz,” and “Lost Eden.” They all sound like tracks on Hootie and Blowfish’s fourth album. The CG performances are also bad and hardly have any movement. Why bother with CG if they are just standing still? The opening sequence consisting of still shots of all 50 male harem characters for like six seconds each might be the worst anime opening I have ever seen. The director did not have a better idea for starting an anime than a glorified PowerPoint presentation. And the lyrics to the songs are sensationally bad like, “I TAKE THIS JUICY APPLE SIGNIFYING THE END GUILTY CROSS” and “WHAT LIES BEYOND BRO?” (Did no one at A-1 realize that their song shares the same title as an anime featuring an idol girl who jumped 30 stories and not get injured?) The character designs are more budget mobage than visual kei. Of course, the main character has heterochromia because that’s what bad character designers do.

I also don’t really know what this show is about despite a lengthy discussion with the Fashion Czar. What we do know is that vampires are also involved. It’s not just a visual kei male idol show– they’re also vampires with angelic wings and pull swords that turn into microphones out of their own tattoos. Like… what purpose does any of this chuunibyou nonsense serve? Why don’t they pull swords out of each other at least somewhat erotically?

(The creator of this show is Noriyasu Agematsu, who is best known as the music composer for Girls Bravo and Bodacious Space Pirates. He has zero script writing credits besides this show.)

(Fashion Czar: “There is so much dead time in this show where nothing narratively or visually is happening.”)


#26. Sankaku Mado no Sotogawa wa Yoru
Zero-G

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“My destiny… is you.”

Aitai ai ai ai ai no ni /
Aenai ai ai ai kon’ya wa /
It’s my only destiny

I would be very troubled if someone who looks like Reigen’s and Gilgamesh’s love child kept telling me how our meeting is ”destiny” every other sentence. I would probably call the cops around the seventh time he mentions it. Sankaku Mado no Sotogawa wa Yoru (The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window) is problematic BL disguised as exorcism anime. It doesn’t even try to cover up the issues– the main protagonist even comments that he did not consent to being used as an exorcism tool and finds himself trapped in an unhealthy relationship with an abusive partner. He even gets told that he’s not allowed to have sex because it’ll weaken his exorcism powers.

Andohbytheway, “exorcism” just means sex in the context of this show. Here’s some sample dialogue:

  • ”Mikado-kun, please keep your hand there.
  • “I’ll go nice and slow. It should start feeling good.”
  • “It’s weird that I’m not getting hard.”
  • ”I’m going to touch it now.”
  • “Should exorcisms be this erotic.”
  • Make it… bigger.”
  • “When paranormal stuff happens, it’s best to think of something erotic.”
  • “That’s why I treat you to steak after an exorcism.”

The animation and production are all budget with the sexy exorcism scenes animated with the same lovingly crafted as a Powerpoint slide effect. The main character also wears eyeglasses straps which I feel is non-existent outside of grandmothers and problematic BL main characters.

(Fashion Czar: “Why would you, out of all people, tell your boss at a bookstore that you can see ghosts?”)

(Love Destiny is still a Top Ten Anime-Ass Anime Opening Song.)


#25. Deep Insanity: The Lost Child
Madhouse

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“Sanity anchor!”

Oh good, an anime about a pandemic that has ravaged humanity coupled with climate change that exposed horrors from a melting Antarctica is exactly what we need right now. Better yet, Deep Insanity: The Lost Child is part of a multi-platform project for a mobage. The only thing we’re missing from this nightmare soup is isekai.

Very little of this show makes sense or is self-consistent. They make a big deal out of the pandemic and make it seem like the only way to avoid it is to wear masks. Gotcha. You know who doesn’t wear masks? The entire cast. We get a scene of a group of elite soldiers wearing masks getting ambushed by a monster. The monster rips the mask off a soldier, and that soldier turns into a monster or something. We get a cut to the main cast walking right through where the soldiers were not wearing masks. They never explained why the main character’s team doesn’t turn into monsters when they breath in the poisoned Antarctica air.

The organizationfighting the monsters trains their new soldiers by shipping them to the front lines in Antarctica, give them a gun, and then put them into battle. There’s no training or even a hot meal before they’re tossed to fight the monsterly creatures. Gee, I wonder why their attrition rate is so high. The soldiers also don’t fight with the guns they are given; instead, they can summon gun pods that dish out the real firepower. That was the point when I wrote, “Mobage?” in my notebook.

Besides the nonsensical world-building and paper-thin characters, the production is awful. The costuming makes no sense. Why does the military assign everyone gloves of different colors and styles? The uniforms also don’t match at all. You know what else militaries love? Facial piercings and long hair.

The character design is similarly atrocious with all the faces looking very similar with only piercings or heterochromia separating distinguishing the characters. I think there have been more characters in anime the past year with heterochromia than people on earth presently with heterochromia. The CG work for the gun pods and monsters look about as good as a Cocomelon video. Action choreography is on par with the YouTube videos of kids playing with Paw Patrol figures that my daughter likes to watch.

(Solvy Sveinen Grosse Bea wins this season’s The Uncle Dis Memorial Most Ridiculous Name Award. How do we go from a character named “James Chen” to “Solvy Sveinen Grosse Bea” to “Larry” in the span of two minutes?)

(Fashion Czar: “This is the most chuunibyou title ever.”)


#24. Kyuuketsuki Sugu Shinu
Madhouse

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“Don’t play dumb, shotacon!”

Kyuuketsuki Sugu Shinu (The Vampire Dies in No Time) is a slapstick comedy about a vampire dying a lot. It is very much an one trick pony. The show is frenetic, and the jokes come a bit too fast. I think this show would do better as short, but I do appreciate that the fast pace means that jokes that don’t hit (which is a lot of them) don’t linger like a stale fart. Nothing really stood out for me– writing, animation, music– were all lackluster to forgettable that I am really confused how this manga has run for more than 18 volumes in just six years.

(The only gag I remembered from the first episode involved a PSP because the PSP was memorable and not the gag.)

(Fashion Czar: “The vampire hunter guy is too loud for me.”)


#23. Platinum End
Signal.MD

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“Once we die, happiness is out of reach. What I need to do is not die and find happiness.”

Platinum End‘s dialogue is about as deep as, “People die when they are killed.” From the start, I thought this show could go in two directions: Harem hijinks a la Mamotte Shokugakan or death game a la Juuni Taisen. Then the “angel” gives the main character the ability to kill people with finger guns, and I wrote “death game” in my notebook.

This show is another battle royale morality play about a poor, down-on-his-luck MC getting tricked into a battle royale. This show doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The angel saves the MC from committing suicide by forcing him to enter a death game. Great! Instead of just dying by splatting into concrete, he gets to live in horror for a few days as psychos with superpowers hunt him down. The angel helpfully tells him that to live, he has to commit mass murder. Next, the parents of the MC die because their car is blown up in their driveway. Wow, how can anyone think a non-General Motors car exploding in a driveway was an accident? Did the police not investigate? If the car was tampered with, they should have been able to tell. The logic in this show only makes sense if we assume all the characters are absolute morons.

Animation is subpar with the the MC’s ability to shoot out vaperwave-inspired CG pyramids being highly comical. The backgrounds are basic, and the characters all wear the same clothes. The aunt wears a nightgown in a flashback sequence from eight years ago, and she wears the same nightgown in every scene she’s in during the present setting as well.

(Fashion Czar: “Why is there a giant butt? Why is the first thing that we see of this angel is its ass? This title… it hurts.”)


#22. Muteking, the Dancing Hero
Tatsunoko Production + Tezuka Productions

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“ARE YOU DANCING?”

Muteking the Dancing Hero is a Tatsunoko revival of an older franchise brought back with a full Jazz cup aesthetic and some anime-tinted version of San Francisco creatively called “Neo San Francisco.” The only fascinating part of this show for me is Neo San Francisco, which apparently is not the same Neo San Francisco in San Francisco Rush 2049. This show depicts an elevated mass transit system flying over the painted ladies. Somehow Seattle’s Space Needle is in the middle of downtown San Francisco. The area outside the Transbay terminal sure looks like the outside of Shibuya station and not anything like the outside of the Transbay terminal. Taco Taco, a restaurant location in this series, parodies the main Fisherman’s Wharf sign but is confusingly next to the Ferry Building, which isn’t where Fisherman’s Wharf is. The main character manages to cross SF and get to an Outsidelands-like concert in record time, much like Jack Bauer managing to drive from Pasadena to LAX in less than five minutes.

There are also other random stuff that… well… there’s a parody of Tae Bo. Yes, Tae Bo, in 2021. Who the hell under 21 even knows about Tae Bo? Do you know that Billy Blanks ended up marrying a Japanese woman and has been living in Japan for almost 15 years now? The evil OctaGo CEO antagonist of this series is modeled after Tim Cook, down to the hand movements Tim uses to introduce random Apple engineers who will then introduce the actual new products.

The plot is typical Tatsunoko fare with a perky young boy given the power to stop this tech CEO and aliens by changing into a dancing superhero. Yes, terrible CG dancing battle sequences that puts the two parties into some sort of music video-esque parody world and they sing and dance. Everything about this sequence was bad: the action, the dancing, the music, and the 1990 Image comics era codpieces. If the draw of the is supposed to be the dancing hero, why does it look like they spent no time developing it?

(The director for Muteking, Ryousuke Takahashi, is 78 years old. He was born while the US was fighting the Japanese in Guadalcanal.)

(Fashion Czar: “What is the target age range for this show?”)


#21. Build Divide -#00000 (Code Black)
Liden Films

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“When units battle each other, they inflict damage based on their power.”

A trend that I’ve noticed this season is that production companies are basically handling projects to directors with no previous experience. Are conditions that dire in the anime industry right now? Or are the production committees just want the cheapest “talent” that they can find? Yuki Komada, who was previous a production assistant for the Madoka franchise and did storyboarding for four Blade of the Immortal episodes, is the director and original creator of Build Divide -#00000 (Code Black).

Also, yep, it’s a card battle game turned anime with the last ten minutes of the first episode being as badly written/directed as a tutorial for a mobage. We get very little in way of character/world development and get tossed into game mechanics. There is way too much talk about cost and territories. At one point in the tutorial battle, the female lead didn’t stop talking as if she were an auctioneer for a solid three minutes. It’s too boring to be an anime yet too long to be a mobage tutorial. The show is just a bland, boring, and uninspired mess. I have a few random thoughts:

  • If Elon Musk designed a Japanese shrine, it would be the shrine in Build Divide. Why are there cyber poles everywhere.
  • The dramatic opening to this anime is someone waving his hand and has a bunch of casino chips fall on him.
  • Tokyo has turned into a more cardtastic battle city than Kaiba’s Domino City. Yet the main protagonist who has a deck of cards plus this game’s version of dual disc has no idea how to play the game.
  • We’re not even given a “He believed in the heart of the cards!” line when the protagonist draws like four cards of what he needs in a row. It’s like as if Yuki Komada never watched an episode of a CCG turned anime before.
  • The art for the CCG and the art of the anime might as well originated from different universes. “We’re going to take the art style from the CCG and shove it into the dumpster because it’s not cute enough for anime.”
  • The meet cute between the female and male lead is a bit unsettling because they look like similar characters just with different wigs on.

(Fashion Czar: “Is this a card battle game?” Leaves the room)


#20. Shinka no Mi: Shiranai Uchi ni Kachigumi Jinsei
Hotline

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“But my adventure and new life start now!”

Shinka no Mi: Shiranai Uchi ni Kachigumi Jinsei (The Fruit of Evolution: Before I Knew It, My Life Had It Made) is yet another escapist isekai fantasy about a male loser lead who gets teleported into a fantasy world, gets cheat-level powers, and obtains a harem of apes. We get a flashforward to a scene with a naked haremette because no one wants to watch this sad high school boy eat fruit for fifteen minutes. Then we get a narrated explanation of how the prokai got isekai’ed. Great. Then we’re treated to a flashback that just shows what he explained. Sigh. His class just gets teleported to another world because reasons. At least he didn’t die from overwork or got hit by a truck. He then figures out that he has cheat-level powers and decides to remake himself– basically make himself skinner– and viola, haremettes can’t keep their mitts off of him.

This isekai has some great ideas. One, this fantasy world has a computerized voice explaining skills. It also has menu UIs and a leveling system with stats. So much easier to bring in RPG shortcuts than waste time with actual worldbuilding. Why make Dune Part I when all we needed is a computerized voice saying, “Paul has gained the ‘Messiah’ skill.”? Two, instead of hiring underpaid anime artists to draw an ED, why not just have a few high schoolers do it as a school project for free? Who can tell the difference? And make sure they put in a slide of the prokai’s attack, defense, and magic stats because that’s criticial to the story. Three, the prokai should get appraisal and unlimited encumbrance as his skills because they are OP as hell and no isekai author has ever thought about using those skills before. Totally 100% original. Four, name the female lead after the most common M9 operator in a tower defense mobage. Five, the prokai should always announce the nuances of every skill he’s using. We definitely need to interrupt a fight and have everyone stop punching each other so he can explain how his current armor reduces his mana consumption by 5%.

(The monsters just exploding into loot and then the prokai activating a skill to vacuum up all the loot is just… wow… just wow.)

(My favorite part of this show is the revelation that a group of apes has evolved to be super smart and capable of making high grade potions and high grade glass bottles to house the potions but nothing else. They can’t weave, write, blacksmith, or calculate gatcha odds, but they can make uniform artisan-quality glass.)

(Fashion Czar: “The spider isekai has more nuance than this show. A literal treasure chest appears, and a voice tells you what’s inside.”)


#19. Pride of Orange
CAAnimation + C2C

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“We are SMILE PRINCESSES!”

I was with Pride of Orange (PuraOre!) for the first 60 seconds of decent hockey action… then the cast exclaims, “WE ARE SMILE PRINCESS!”, and Pride of Orange hard pivots into idols. Hockey is such an obscure and unexciting sport that we can’t just have a hockey sports anime but an anime about idols who also play hockey on the side. There ends up being more footage of the girls doing embroidery club than playing hockey in the first episode. The premise reinforces that belief: hockey is so uninteresting that the girls also have to work as idols during intermissions because that will bring people in and definitely not tire out the girls. You know what will bring people with no interest in ice hockey to watch ice hockey? Idols.

The poor girls don’t even learn how to play hockey. Their “coach” first teaches them idol dance routines. It isn’t until before their first game that they are taught that “Two teams play, and the one that scores the most points, win.” My goodness. These poor embroidery club girls. They go from fun embroidery pajama parties to playing hockey but really are just being secretly groomed to be idols. At the end of the first episode, none of the girls had show any personality or gone into any of their backstories… which should be at the top of the list for any sports anime.

Character personality/backstory should also be at the top of the list for any mobage-turned-anime because nothing helps compel someone to roll for a waifu than feeling their sad backstory. Yep, Pride of Orange isn’t just hockey idols, it’s a mobage.

Fashion Czar had a few comments about this show:

  • “Don’t worry guys, I know that was hockey, but here’s an idol scene. Here’s them being cute and effeminate. Now they’re taking a bath together. These are your perfect women.”
  • “They are all wearing pajama loungewear while at their friends house. Wait, they are just going to try out hockey because they found a flyer?”
  • “Except for Farewell to Kramer, why are there no non-moe girls sports anime?”
  • “Tsubasa [from Terrace House] deserved better than this.”

(I’m trying to think of a comparison to Touko Machida writing Muteki Kanban Musume and Lucky Star as their first two works… and then Pride of Orange and Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan as their two most recent works. Maybe if someone wrote Bound and The Matrix and ended up writing Jupiter Ascending and Sense8.)

(Also as a complete show of faith in the idol group, the OP is sung by the idols, but the ED is sung by May’n. It’s like the production committee is trying to hedge their bets.)


#18. Gyakuten Sekai no Denchi Shoujo
Lerche

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“I will take on any fool who can’t read the tides.”

Anytime I can watch an original anime from the mind that wrote Fate/Grand Carnival, Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy, Qwaser of Stigmata S2 (the bad season), Yuki Yuna Is a Hero S1 (the good season), and anime of the year 2006 Sola, I gotta do it. Gyakuten Sekai no Denchi Shoujo (Rumble Garanndoll) is an action slash comedic mecha anime that takes place in a dystopic Japan that has outlawed videogames (finally, we’re saved from mobages) but not host clubs. The main character works as a host (essentially the male version of Jeanne Alter’s hostess from Fate/Grand Carnival) but somehow gets caught in a giant mecha battle. He enters the cockpit of a downed mecha for safety (as they all do) and finds he has a rapport to the chibi girl AI and is able to pilot the mecha. Totally not the setup of Gundam Seed, Gundam 00, Macross Delta, Dual, and Vandread. He even remarks, “Robot anime protagonists are usually dragged into the robot by accident.” Wait, there’s anime in this world?

Nothing about Rumble Garanndoll is that interesting. The main character, beyond the host bit, is just another self-insertion protagonist husk. The main female lead works great as a chibi AI, but once it’s revealed that she’s an actual schoolgirl in an Evangelion-like plug unit, she seems to be another generic character. The resistance leader is a poor man’s Kamina. The action sequences are comically bad. The villain robots destroy everything except the protagonist’s robot, which allows him to counterattack and win at the end. During the battle with the elite general, it takes the general like six minutes to travel 100 meters so the main character can take a phone call, argue with the chibi AI girl, and have a mental breakdown and resolution to the breakdown.

(Fashion Czar: “The jokes don’t land for this show.” Me: “There’s jokes in this show?”)


#17. Mieruko-chan
Passione

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The genre for Mieruko-chan on Wikipedia is “horror comedy.” It’s horror, but you also have slapstick comedy? How does that work? This show is interesting in that the OP feels like an OP to a harem anime, and it screams harem anime for like twenty minutes. One scene has the main character’s friend collide into the main character thus squishing her ample melonpan into the main character’s back in in 60fps with her lacy bra lovingly drawn under a very opaque but not completely opaque shirt. There is also a scene where the friend drops something, and we get a nice ass shot with panty lines. There is another scene where the main character is taking off her panties in the bathroom and… that’s it. Nothing happens except it’s just a scene of her undressing in the bathroom. This is horror comedy.

The horror part eventually shows up towards the end as the sunny harem art style is replaced with a darker, more horror-appropriate art style as it is revealed that the main character can see ghosts and spirits, and they all want to do bad things to her. I’ve actually read a little of this manga, and the anime feels slow. While there are some cheap plot twists in this story, a major arc is focused around spirit battling that might as well be from In/Spectre or something similar.

I’ve read this manga before, and it loves taking hard right turns whenever possible. Every other chapter felt like a “Ha ha! Because I activated your trap card, it also activated my face down card which lets me place two more cards face down!” It becomes a bit predictable. Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to new chapters like I do for Sousou no Frieren.

(Fashion Czar: “A pregnant teacher? Not a teacher who just complains about being a spinster?”)


#16. Saihate no Paladin
Doga Kobo

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“I’m the only one who breathes and feels warm.”

Saihate no Paladin (The Faraway Paladin) is, yep, another isekai. Sigh. We don’t even get to see the main prokai get run over by a truck or die from overwork. He is just reborn as a baby in this high fantasy world. Is there a genre word to describe isekai that involves someone not just dying but very specifically becoming a baby but with their knowledge intact? I feel like it is popular enough of a genre to have a word. Maybe “isekai baby drifting”.

The main gimmick of this show is that this isekai baby seems to be the only human around. He is being raised by a bunch of undead monsters, and I think the mystery of the world is the main draw. The prokai is a baby who barely can walk. The ghost might as well be Scrooge McDuck crossed with Mark Zuckerberg. The skeleton somehow talks without a wind pipe or tongue. None of the characters or conflicts are as interesting compared to the mystery of this fantasy world.

(Fashion Czar: “Unusual to see actual high fantasy character designs in anime.”)

(Gus the Ghost is definitely a name my daughter would give to an inflatable Halloween lawn ghost in our neighborhood. A nearby house had a giant inflatable spider, and she just calls it “Pete.” I have no idea why. Maybe I shouldn’t let her watch anymore of The Faraway Paladin.)


#15. Selection Project
Doga Kobo

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Selection Project is an idol battle royale anime where girls from various regions of Japan compete to be an idol a la The Voice. The surprising thing is that the singing is animated and not CG. That’s about as rare as an Aya Hirano role these days. What else is rare in anime? Supportive parents who actually look like parents– not overly aged or overly young but actual parent-looking parents. (The dad just needs a dad hat.) There’s a montage of the girls introducing themselves while their parents watch on stream, and it’s a great montage. One of the girls is the “sporty” one, so of course when they cut to her parents, they were on treadmills at the gym (sadly not doing Tae Bo). Also, the main protagonist’s dad gets serious when he sees his daughter on stream and sends the show to the TV via AirPlay. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen AirPlay used in an anime.

The production is surprisingly good, the direction isn’t bad, and the writing is better than Wake Up, Girls!. The writer, Yuya Takahashi, last wrote Lupin series 4, the one where Lupin gets married in Italy. I might be into Selection Project if it didn’t have the Full Moon wo Sagashite shadow hanging over it. The main character is constantly in a hospital in her flashbacks, and she randomly coughs and passes out. Oh boy. This show does feel like it might be an mobage if it catches so, so I doubt they will go full Full Moon, but who knows. The music is sadly typical, forgettable idol fare. Nothing as catch as the laundry song from Carole and Tuesday… round and round goes the dancing laundry~

(A fictional idol who passed away in a car accident is given a moment of silence in the middle of the show. Please tell me that the spin-off for this show is an isekai where that idol is reborn in another world and has to bring music and dance to that world while being a pharmacist and being wooed by two princes.)

(The montage of the main character carrying her luggage up and down stairs because not all Japanese train stations have elevators/escalators reminded me of my travels to Japan.)

(The mascot/host, Sumipanda, sure feels like it is Matt Lucas inside that suit.)

(Fashion Czar: “Someone fire the mascot designer. At least the girls don’t have ridiculous costume designs.”)


#14. Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu
Arvo Animation

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“There are things a dog can’t tell us.”

Dogs can tell us that they love us. What more do you need? If you can’t get enough of alt-history space race after watching For All Mankind, anime’s answer is Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu, which basically asks, “What if the United States were named the United Kingdom, and what if the Soviets cosmonauts were vampires?” I’m not sure why the cosmonaut has to be a vampire because wouldn’t they be exposed to the sun more in space? That part is poorly explained outside the 86-ish gist that vampires are expendable because they are pigs in humanoid form. The main vampire girl is even assigned a “handler” and sleeps in a coffin because why the fuck not. The Soviet space program depends on a sexy vampire, a boy who looks like he should be in The Boy Detective Club, and a little girl with pink twin tails. Let’s have a completely serious subject and undermine it with vampires and generic anime characters.

Animation and production are fairly good– almost too good– for this type of show. At one point, the vampire girl starts eating fish roe, and the animation went to God Knows levels to show the fish roe bursting in her mouth. I think it must be some sort of secret niche fetish thing like those Five Minute Craft videos. Now that I think about it, the vampire girl’s first words after being Marci-levels of mute were, “Baka ja nai, no?” I do wonder if this show is alt-history vampire space race on the outside but secretly a tsundere fish roe fetish anime on the inside.

(I’m confused why the show and the town in the show is named after the dog that the Soviets sent into space, but they changed the name of the dog that was sent into space in this alt-history… so Laika was never sent into space… which makes it weird those things are named after her. It’s like Lena naming the cat in 86 “Thermopylae” and someone questioning her, “Why didn’t you just name him ‘Leonidas’?” Like, wait, what? Was it Earth all along?)

(Ali Project is still around? And they still sound the same as their Noir days. Oh, never change. OH GEASS NO! MAKO-CAKES! KILLER LOLIS!)

(As soon as I heard the dorm cook speak, I wrote down “Belldandy.” And I was right.)

(Fashion Czar: “I’m just glad the vampire girl gets to wear pants and fatigues.”)


#13. Kyoukai Senki
Sunrise Beyond

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“Just being born Japanese is a huge handicap in life.”

Wow, just wow. Even in this dystopic Japan, I’m sure there are worse draws you could have in the 親ガチャ. Kyoukai Senki (Amaim Warrier at the Borderline) has a very familiar backstory. After WWII, Japan is occupied up by the Soviets, Americans, and Chinese and somehow those countries moved in giant drone robots. It’s up to one plucky Japanese high school boy with a strange mysterious power and a Cheese-kun-adjacent mascot character to liberate Area 11 err Japan in an ultrapowerful mecha he finds in a mountainside. I have a few questions. One, why is this ultrapowerful military AI given the personality of a mascot character for a children’s show? Maybe the same person who thought it was a good ideal to make the Emergency Holographic Doctor a twat. Two, the high school boy manages to break through military-grade security by randomly trying codes on a keypad? Three, at some point, he wants to look at the schematic for a giant robot, and he pulls up the physical layout view of what appears to be an inverter. Guys, that’s a layout view, not a schematic view. Where is your authenticity? Four, it’s 2021, and we have an AI mascot character asking a poor high schooler to sign a contract. Is Kyoukai Senki derivative? Mmm.

I think my major issue with this show is the tone. It feels like three different directors worked on different segments, and none of them could agree if this were a grim dark military mech show, a children’s superhero show, or a slapstick comedy. Just huge tone shifts in this show from montage explaining the sad situation in Japan to mascot character cracking jokes to civilians being executed while the mascot character shouts about using an ult like he’s yelling at Tidehunder to use ravage. “We have to save our carry! Use your special move and eliminate them all at once! Blink in and then ravage!”

(Kyoukai Senki is written by Noboru Kimura who has the following notable writing credits: Onegai Teacher Official Fan Book, Skate-Leading Stars, and Solty Rei.)

(Sunrise Beyond is the remnants of Xebec.)


#12. 真の仲間じゃないと勇者のパーティーを追い出されたので、辺境でスローライフすることにしました
SynergySP

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“I want to live a slow life.”

真の仲間じゃないと勇者のパーティーを追い出されたので、辺境でスローライフすることにしました (Shin no Nakama ja Nai to Yuusha no PARTY o Oidasareta no de, Henkyou de Surou Raifu Suru Koto ni Shimashita / Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside) wins this season’s Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai: Puberty Syndrome Abnormal Experiences During Adolescence Due to Sensitivity and Instability Memorial Most Ridiculous Name award. Whew. Now I’m tired. This show is yet another fantasy story about a pharmacist being overpowered and attracting all the hot ladies because that’s what pharmacists do. The twist here is that the MC, Red, was part of the hero’s party to defeat the demon lord and bring peace to the land. However, he was kick off from the party because he was too good lucking and stealing all the haremettes reasons.

So Red basically lives as a pharmacist in the boonies with his sexy adventurer girlfriend and… yeah… that’s about it. I have a few questions. One, how come none of these fantasy protagonists want to be blacksmiths, clergy, teachers, or architects? There was already a fantasy show last season about a guy who wants to run a pharmacy. Where is the isekai light novel about a guy who dies of COVID-19, gets reborn in a fantasy world, becomes a blacksmith, and specializes in making giant phallus statues? Two, do we need a videogame RPG-based fantasy world for non-isekai anime. Do we really need RPGify a standard fantasy world? Why does every isekai need the concept of “skills”? Three, who thought it was a good idea to present the entire backstory as a six minute long monologue? Four, why do the doctors of this fantasy world wear the same smocks as modern doctors? Shouldn’t they be wearing something more era appropriate? Five, why is the MC’s name Red, but he dresses in all blue?

(Red’s real name is “Gideon.” Was he banished from the hero’s party because they found out that he kidnapped Ramona Flowers?)

(The OP for this show sounds like it should be background music for a mall food court.)


#11. Sakugan
Satelight

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“I think the time for a father/daughter journey is now!”

I’m not ready for a father/daughter mecha anime that starts the same way as Gurren Lagann (lotsa digging) and will probably end the same way (with giant robots tossing galaxies at each other). Sakugan (Sacks and Guns?) is a father/daughter anime that takes place in a giant Made in Abyss-ish hole full of dangers and monsters and architecture best described as, “What someone in Japan thinks China looks like after visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown.” This show feels like a mediocre show from the mid-00s except since it’s 2021, this show is a breath of fresh air in an infinite ocean of isekai. I can’t think of another anime “fad” that has gone on longer than isekai. Magic battle high schools and magical girls and ecchi harem never lasted this long or produced so many variants. What’s next? “I Died of COVID-19 and Was Reborn as a Fantasy World’s Strongest Virus”?

The base father/daughter relationship is good with a lot of father/daughter trolling and bickering. The supporting characters feel a bit more one note and less colorful than the main pair. Most of the story seems to be how the two can work together to overcome obstacles, and I can’t think of another father/daughter anime quite like this in the past 16 years.

Production for Sakugan looks good, and it has a good mix of fitting Jazz/upbeat BGM to fit its style. I’m not enamored by the style, but at least it has a direction. At one point, there’s a sequence where a giant kaiju with a tummy laser is chasing a mecha, and then it cuts to the cockpit showing that the daughter has a Looney Tunes-Wile E Coyote-esque bomb with her. More importantly, this show has great names. Gagumba? Memempu? BIG TONY!? Maybe a few shows this season has better individual names, but this show has the best naming. I even enjoyed the fake food company named “Fresh Canned Foods.”

(Fashion Czar: “They are like two different Kurt Russells having drinks with each other.”)


#10. Komi-san Can’t Communicate
OLM

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“Tadano realized his high school life was over before it began.”

The opening sequence of the Netflix weekly series Komi-san Can’t Communicate features sakura falling around a cat while a little toddler runs past looks fantastic. I think that sequence had more budget than the entire first episode of Visual Prison. Netflix $$$. The premise of this 23+ volume manga (that’s almost double the length of 5Toubun) is about how this girl, Komi, can’t speak, and instead of her going to therapy, she seeks help from the class loser, Tadano. Because she can’t speak, the production really had to nail the sound effects and mood music, and they do just that. To convey how she does communicate by writing on a chalkboard, the show goes a bit overboard into a Beautiful Mind territory. In anycase, Netflix $$$.

The whole premise would get old if it were just Komi and Tadano, but thankfully they’ll introduce more fun broken friends. Besides not going to therapy, the other thing I don’t get is why don’t Tadano and Komi talk over their phones instead of the three hour long chalkboard scene? There’s a segment where the two write almost as much as a NIsio Isin light novel on the blackboard, and I’m just wondering, “Why?” Tadano is an idiot. Instead of letting her write novellas on the blackboard, he should trade phone numbers with her so they can text instead and maybe slip in a dick pic. Or trade Line/Discord/TikTok/Roblox/FGO/FFXIV IDs (or whatever else the kids are into these days) with each other and communicate that way.

(Andohbytheway, Tadano and Komi don’t sit in the protagonist chairs. They sit kinda in the middle of the classroom.)


#9. Sekai Saikou no Ansatsusha Isekai
Silver Link

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“Follow the money.”

Sekai Saikou no Ansatsusha Isekai (The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat) starts off with a major flash-forward because we can’t have an entire episode dedicated to world-building and character development. We need at least seven minutes of haremettes providing fanservice as they assassinate people. “Hey guys! This show isn’t just about an old man! There’s going to be boobs! Bouncy boobs! Here’s a panty shot before she impales someone with a spear!” The flash-forward sequence features the prokai plus his harem busting a sex trafficking ring. It turns into something as silly as Princess Euphemia gunning down an audience. There is just something hilarious about a tiny anime girl with giant boobs gunning down men in Eyes Wide Shut-esque masks with a magic rifle. The girls have a futuristic magic semi-automatic rifle, a magic resolver, and a magic sniper rifle. The art style can’t decide on one style so it decided to take the Cheesecake Factory approach and be all styles. Though all of the prokai’s haremettes have about the same build: 41 kilograms with at least 5 of that in each boob. Hashtag backproblems.

After seeing some hot haremette action, we’re tossed into the present as the titular assassin is trying to finish one last job. After completing the job, he is double-crossed by his organization (pretty much all assassin stories), and the organization decides to take him out “stealthily” by blowing up a commerical flight that he was travelling on. Finally, someone gets isekai’ed via an air-to-air heat seeking missile. The prokai then wakes up in front of a goddess who makes weird animal noises and shouts random English phrases much like how anime fans shout random Japanese phrases at AX. He gets some cheat level skills and gets the ultimate assassination job: Killing Kirito Kirigaya.

The art and production of this show is quite below average, but the prokai does have a Realist Hero competency that I like. (Unfortunately, his harem is not as good as Souma’s.) Maybe this show and high draft pick Yakuza Reincarnation will usher in a golden age of skilled old men who die during a moment of softness and then are reincarnated as harem magnets. Overall, I think I would have liked this show more if it were a Golgo 13-ish modern day assassin tale.

(I like how there’s no names in this show. “The Organization.” “The Mafia.” “The Neighboring Country.” “The Assassin.”)


#8. Blue Period
Seven Arcs

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“There’s no promising future after graduating from art school.”

Finally, an anime that gets it. Blue Period is about the existential crisis that artists have when they realize that they only way they can make big bucks is to start a Patreon where they draw lewd images of anime characters. It is I believe US Netflix’s first weekly anime (other regions already had weekly anime). This show has some great dialogue.

“I don’t get what’s so great about Picasso.” Einstein? Dumb chump. Jordan? Overrated. Mozart? Lucky hack. Kusama? Only draws polka dots. Lasso? Wanker.

“My favorite scenery is burying my face in a girl’s boobs.” This character will do well on Patreon. I’m sure there is a profitable niche for drawings of that kink.

“Until now, I’ve only drawn blue things with one type of blue.” Steve, Joe, and Josh are all nodding.

“That time, for the first time in my life, I had a real talk in my life.” Snickers keep you full.

“Why go to art school if you can’t make a living off of it?” Didn’t we just get an anime about someone going to “art” school, regretting the outcome, and then rewinding time to do it over by going to a different art school? How come no one in these redo life shows go back and buy bitcoin or Apple stock? Or just bet on Germany on the 2014 World Cup?

I think, for the most part, the more realistic character angst and drama about a young man discovering art and getting into it are interesting, but I can’t get over two things. One, the characters look way older than they should. Two, it’s rare to see an anime about 15-16 year old teenagers smoking and drinking, and the smoking happens enough that it makes me actively dislike the show. It’s hard for me to get over that. If Super Cub can put up a warning saying some of the stuff the characters are doing on that show is illegal, why can’t this show? Smoking age in Japan is still twenty. More boobs; less smoking.


#7. Taishou Otome Otogibanashi
SynergySP

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“My life ended at 17 years.”

Taishou Otome Otogibanashi (Taishou Otome Fairy Tale) is about a sad rich boy who gets injured in early twentieth century Japan and becomes a disgrace to the family. He gets exiled to Japanese Siberia to basically disappear. However, his dad tosses him a lifeline by buying him a wife. No, not NP5 Ishtar, but an actual high school wife. She was purchased for 10,000 yen, which would be around $1,400 today. That’s cheaper than an GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. A wife who can cook amazing meals and give tsundere eyes in bed vs. 17.4 billion CMOS transistors?

I kinda like this show because the loser male lead is a compete sad sack, and the show is mostly black/white/grey. Once his wife shows up, every room she enters turns to color a la Pleasantville. She also gets an awesome “capable wife is capable” montage. It’s like an odd couple of the immovable depression vs. the unstoppable optimism. This poor girl is sold for less than a graphics card, yet she still has her spirits. This show feels like a slightly more serious version of Tokikaku Kawaii, but it works. I do wish that the animation were a little better. Some of the animation and visuals are on the bare bones sides.

(Just what I want in my romcom: Giant slankets. Slankets everywhere. )


#6. Lupin the 3rd: Party VI
Telecom Animation Film

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“Seems like everyone just welcomed this new crap.”

Ok boomer. Kinda odd to think of Lupin as a boomer, but as I watch him dodge Ai-controlled drones equipped with lethal weapons, he is a boomer. Lupin the 3rd: Part VI (which comes 3 years after Part V) celebrates Lupin’s 50th anniversary with drones and spends the first ten minutes of the show trying to justify the existence of Lupin in 2021. Kinda fascinating how there was a 31 year gap between Part III and Part IV, but since then it’s been like clockwork in cranking out new Lupin adventures.

The twist for this season is that Lupin not only battles Zenigata but also Sherlock Holmes because why the fuck not at this point. Maybe in Part IX, Lupin discovers the Death Note, and in Part XV, he’s being chased down by Tachikomas. Animation from TMS is more refined than the previous two parts, and Kiyoshi Kobayashi finally retires as Jigan, marking the last of the original cast to retire.

(“Not many appreciate a good whiskey these days.” Wow, talk about out-of-touch boomers. Good luck getting a bottle of Yamazaki 12 these days.)

(Does every Lupin series start with old found footage? How does Zenigata still have a job having caught like zero criminals in fifty years? How do you have a spread with enough food to feed 50 people and have only one comically large meat stick? And they barely ate any of the food. So much food waste.)


#5. Takt Op Destiny
MAPPA + Madhouse

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“Please continue to enjoy your everyday lives.”

Takt Op Destiny starts with a short “summary” of how “musicarts” fight evil alien invaders using music. This show has to be a mobage, right? Cosette’s the free SR unit like Mash/Amiya… food is probably what recharges the timed stamina meter… and Anna is the shopkeeper. “UNLEASH THE SOUNDS” is when an unit uses her ultimate ability. This show makes a lot more sense in that capacity. Though I didn’t expect the show to be so well animated (like Rage of Bahamut budget) and have so much random slapstick comedy. The show’s gimmick of magical girls who fight aliens using handlers who are musical conductors is dumb, but it is self-aware and just continues to be dumb. I do like the Americana in this show, and it gets California architecture better than Muteking. I also like how it’s one of the few anime I have ever seen where pivotal scenes occur in a garage attached to a suburban home.

My gripe about this show is that only classical music is considered “real” music. All of the magical girls are paired with a signature piece of classical music and somehow only this type of music can stop the aliens. I find that kinda funny considering how ryo from Supercell is the music director for this show, and he taps into so many different influences beyond classical. I think I would like this show more if there were a ska magical girl, an anime OP magical girl, a modern k-pop rap interlude magical girl, a Jazzercise BGM magical girl, and an acapella magical girl. I would like her signature piece to be Rockapella’s theme for Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.

(Cosette reminds me of a cross between Asuka and a Misaka clone. Anna reminds me of a poor man’s Misato. The lesson, as always, is that I watch too much anime.)

(If Takt Op has a collab with Nodame Cantabile where Chiaki is an OP SSR, I’m in. I’ll go download the game and start re-rolling until I get Chiaki.)

(The scenario writer, Kiyoko Yoshimura, is best known for Sonic X, Garo Vanishing Line, and Kurogane no Linebarrels. I can’t say that I’ve finished any of those series before.)

(Wait, did I just put the 2021 version of Symphogears in the top five?)


#4. Ranking of Kings
Wit Studio

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“What is Ranking of Kings?”

Not often does an anime start like Ranking of Kings and asks what is itself and then launching into a Game of Thrones-like shame shame shame sequence featuring a naked little boy. I’m not quite sure what type of show this one is, but it has an unique retro art style to it (despite the manga being only around five years old). The main character is a mute (and maybe deaf) prince who lives in a giant castle town enclosed by tall stones walls because, well, this is a Wit Studios production. His dad is literally King Arthur from The Green Knight. I don’t know where this story is going either, but it seems promising, especially if it turns out that the boy is actually an isekai’ed Japanese salaryman who will bring crop rotation and soy sauce to this kingdom. I am disappointed that this anime isn’t animated historians ranking actual kings. Anywho, here are my rankings.

Top anime kings (have to be actual kings and not just “King of Bread”): Souma Elfrieden, Iskandar, Ainz Ooal Gown, Blank, Gilgamesh (Caster), Rimuru, Anos Voldigoad, and Theo Cornaro.

Worst anime kings: Van Fanel, Saber (all except Caster), Gilgamesh (Archer), Lelouch, Tenchi, and Relena Peacecraft.


#3. Restaurant to Another World S2
OLM

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“Do fried rice and curry go together?”

I literally just ate fried rice and curry for lunch before watching the first episode of Restaurant to Another World S2. They go together very well. I am sad that all the old school Japanese family diner-type restaurants located near me have closed. Every restaurant that put a little flag on their kid’s meal are gone. RIP Curry House. Anyway, the isekai version of Curry House is going strong. Restaurant 2 Another World 2 Furious is still glamming up Japanese diner food in the family restaurant of isekai settings (i.e. predictable fantasy tropes but no RPG status screen nonsense). I guess one weird thing is that a character in the fantasy world spoke the word, “isekai.” Nonetheless, if you enjoyed the first season, you’ll probably enjoy the new one. If you haven’t watched the first, start there.

The studio flips from Silver Link to OLM, and it is one of the more gentle flips. Show still looks good, and the food still looks tasty. I’m not sure if I like how they made the restaurant’s master look younger and skinnier though. I’m afraid he might end up looking like a shounen protagonist by season four.

Each episode focuses on one or two characters, and each character has their favorite food that they always order at the restaurant. One of the dishes in the first episode is cheesecake because this poor catgirl never thought about cheese as a dessert. “I love cheese but never had it as a dessert!” She even tries to just eat sugar. We need to introduce this catgirl to high fructose corn syrup or just take her to Cheesecake Factory and their 39 different types of cheesecakes. No, that’s not a joke. They have around 39 kinds of cheesecakes.

(The whole Curry House saga is kinda sad. House Foods owned Curry House, but they decided to sell it to a group of businessmen in Texas named “FMP” because House Foods wanted to buy Coco Ichibanya, which is a similar restaurant chain. The FMP Texas businessmen, who owned a bunch of Buffalo Wild Wings, apparently fired 90% of the staff and embezzled around $12 million from the chain to buy exotic cars. The combination of the depleted staff and the lack of funds shuttered Curry House. Look, I just want to take my daughter to a restaurant that puts flags on kid’s meals and cuts their sausages to look like octopus. Is that too much to ask for?)

(Probably not a good sign for a season if this show’s second season is in the top three.)

(Fashion Czar: “It is funny to hear them explain the concept of well-known dishes [like fried rice].”)


#2. My Senpai Is Annoying
Doga Kobo

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“Life has its ups and bears.”

Senai ga Uzai Kouhai no Hanashi (My Senpai Is Annoying / I Want To Get Into Senpai’s Pants) asks what if the adult version of the male lead from Ore Monogatari starred in a romcom opposite an adult version of the female lead from Yotsuba (yet is the same size of Yotsuba)? I’m enjoying this show for mostly its competent adults but also for the fantastic facial animations. A lot of jokes are sold on the faces rather than dialogue, and I like that. The animation and backgrounds are also good, and this is the minimum level of production I would want from an actual Yotsuba anime. The pacing is good with a good balance between jokes and character building, and I like how each character has things they are both good and bad at.

The three best things of this show besides the giant size difference of the two leads are: One, Fashion Czar making me stop the episode so she can show me the clip of Sean Connery trying to explain what are “senpai” and “kouhai” to Wesley Snipes. Two, the grandpa, especially after she tells him that she has “climbed up the stairs of adulthood.” Three, the feeling that the show manages to convey when you’re sad and tired and just want a dumb drink from a vending machines but discover that they are sold out.

(It’s 2021, and Japan still has salespeople traveling to their clients to hand them catalogs. That’s Japanese efficiency for ya.)

(I’m convinced grandpa is actually an older, retired Kogarashi from Kamen no Maid Guy. He was fighting a bear! Between him, Kogarashi, Golden Kamuy, and the lady from Wave, Listen to Me!, Japanese people love fighting bears almost as much as they like being reborn into another world with cheat-level powers.)

(If we removed senpai from this anime, it would just be Wakako-zake. And I’m fine with that too. Pu-shuuuuu~)


#1. 86
A-1

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“It was a three-ringed circus filled with fun and excitement.”

I enjoyed the first season of 86, and I expect the second to be just as entertaining. There should be less of the “one death per episode” setup of the first season, but there is yet another strong soldier turned Legion that Shin has to go out and kill again. There are also more random anime elements like Frederica and her role as “little anime girl with hidden supernatural powers”. At least Shin’s powers are kinda explained by the story… Fredrica’s are like, “Well, she’s royalty, so she can shoot lasers out of her eyes or something.”

(Post Thin Slicing: There’s one episode this season where the animation felt like it just collapsed. And then the next episode preview is a recap episode. Never a good sign for production if they need to dip into a recap episode before the halfway mark. And then they need another week off. Has there been a show that has taken two weeks off before another series in that season took even one week off? I wonder if A-1 bit off more than they can with this show plus Visual Prison this season. I can’t remember the last time a studio had two shows in one season, and they came in first and last.)

(I’m up to book five now, and I have to ask, is 86 a Christmas anime? Also, I thought the start of 86 detailing the atrocities of the Republic on the 86 was hard to stomach until I got to the chapters where people were referring to the Legion threat as “fake news”. I had to close my Kindle after a particular grueling chapter.)


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“Why couldn’t I be #1, S-senpai?”

2 Responses to “thin slicing the new season, fall 2021 edition”

  1. I’ve been reading your Thin Slicing posts for years now, and I always look forward to them. Thanks for continuing to make these!

  2. Disappointed no thin slicing entry for Arcane, but I guess Japanese animation bias is strong. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten increasingly more disappointed with anime in general (too many mobages and isekai). Castlevania and Arcane have been examples of animations that simply dumps on anime that comes out recently

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