Fall 2021 Anime Overview

Fall 2021 Anime Overview

The Fall 2021 anime season is frontloaded with a few truly exceptional creative efforts, then chockful of titles with interesting teams having to brawl with this industry’s circumstances. Let’s dive deep into a season that, for the good and the bad, is very representative of anime’s current state.

Ranking of Kings
The Heike Story
Komi Can’t Communicate
Super Crooks
Other Titles

Ranking of Kings (PV)
Director: Yosuke Hatta
Assistant Series Director: Arifumi Imai
Series Episode Director: Makoto Fuchigami
Character Designer, Chief Animation Director: Atsuko Nozaki
Assistant Character Designer, Chief Animation Director: Maki Kawake
Main Animators: Masaru Oshiro, Shin Ogasawara, Nozomu Fujii
Art Director: Yuji Kaneko
Art Design: Kazushi Fujii

Kevin: Ousama Ranking is an exceptional adaptation giving a whole new flavor to an already enchanting work. While its long-term fate is a bit scary given studio WIT’s tendency to eat up production buffers, so far it’s been a perfect example of how the framing of a story can impact your experience. An exciting new director surrounded by talented friends of his, and with the studio’s most formidable weapons at his disposal—it’s such an enticing prospect that we’ve actually started its coverage already, so you can read about it much more in-depth over here!

The Heike Story (PV)
Director: Naoko Yamada
Character Designer, Chief Animation Director: Takashi Kojima
Art Director: Kubo Tomotaka
Photography Director: Kazuto Izumida
Composer: Kensuke Ushio

Kevin: It simply does not get more interesting than a foundational piece of Japanese literature being entrusted to a person with a strong claim to the title of most brilliant director of her era. We dropped a long piece about the complicated circumstances that led to Heike Monogatari‘s production the moment that the title was finally unveiled, and the situation hasn’t gotten any less difficult since then. Director Naoko Yamada faces easily the biggest challenge in her professional career. Not only has she stepped away from this industry’s best safety net for tragic reasons, but also has to tackle a notoriously dense narrative; one that would make the most efficient directors shiver, let alone someone like her who would rather limit dialogue and explicit narratives, lending her canvas to the character’s inner voices instead. As if that wasn’t enough, a not very generous pre-production span and a studio with serious systemic issues are bad partners, so the team isn’t exactly having an easy time creating this show.

None of the things I’ve brought up were much of a surprise to anyone who was paying attention, and neither was the fact that Yamada has refused to compromise on her style; adapt, sure, resign, never. It takes exactly one shot for Heike Monogatari to show that Yamada’s delicacy and ethereal compositing are here to stay, even in an environment where it’s much harder to pull them off. Her courteous framing remains exactly the same: a feverish obsession with body language, especially aspects like the legs that don’t feel as intrusive as peering into the characters’ facial expressions. Through her familiar toolset, Yamada sidesteps the issues of such a dense story, aiming for emotional clarity more than she does for narrative clarity; which is to say that even if you don’t have the memory to keep up with all the feudal plots, she will get across the feelings of all actors involved. In that regard, it helps that she—alongside her writing pal Reiko Yoshida—has been able to shift the perspective to that of Biwa, a young girl through whose eyes Yamada’s style feels more at home.

To enable this approximation of KyoAni’s style outside of KyoAni, Yamada has been using… well, KyoAni staff. Nearly every episode has been directed either by an ex-member of the studio or by someone who’d spent years studying their works, a bunch of animators who’d worked alongside her at some point in their careers have come to her aid, and even companies affiliated to KyoAni are assisting her; something you’d never see on a TV anime otherwise, but Yamada is the type of industry giant who can shift trends by changing her course. While the main staff that has gathered at Science Saru can’t match the technical excellence of her previous workplace—especially given the studio’s poor working conditions—they’re a very capable bunch. Designer Takashi Kojima, Art Director Kubo Tomotaka, and color designer Masaru Hashimoto have crafted a perfectly fitting aesthetic that evokes the feeling of an old scroll even when it’s not directly using such imagery, all while easing the work for an animation team at its limits. Their results are so naturally stunning I wouldn’t blame anyone for assuming it was effortless.

As you might imagine, we’ll be covering the series in the future, be it in writing or by translating interviews with the staff if those become available—ideally, both. For now, this is all I have to say, which is already more substantial than my initial plan to write “Naoko Yamada is directing a Heike Monogatari anime, what else could you possibly want to know, just go watch it.” My message hasn’t ultimately changed.

Komi Can’t Communicate (PV)
Chief Director: Ayumu Watanabe
Director: Kazuki Kawagoe
Assistant Series Director: Isao Nanba
Character Designer: Atsuko Nakajima
Main Animators: Asami Hayakawa, Haruyoshi Nomura, Hayato Torii
Art Director: Masaru Sato
Photography Director: Tomo Namiki

Kevin: Calling Komi-san a much-awaited adaptation is no exaggeration. Its romcom hijinks between the most average boy to ever be average and a beautiful girl with tragically poor communication skills became the title that had the most fans praying for an anime. As much as pre-existing popularity on that caliber gives you a leg up on the competition, it’s by no means a confirmation that the adaptation will receive the time and resources it deserves, as suits have a tendency to grow complacent and take the support of the fans for granted. As if to assuage the worries that this could be a cynical, lifeless cash-in, the series burst out the gate with an energy rarely found in TV anime nowadays. The first episode’s barrage of amusing character animation and crazy visual gags to match the eccentric cast, as well as the gorgeous thoroughly unified aesthetic of the opening, will stick around people’s minds as all-timers.

On the whole, Komi-san’s adaptation is transformative without altering the content much at all, a balance that ought to please both source material purists and those who hope for adaptations to put something new on the table. That faithfulness demands more energy to their delivery than they might have needed had they reimagined the series for animation purposes—but since they can afford to pull that off, there is no issue. Now of course, the extravagant animation of the premiere isn’t sustainable in the long run, hence why a lot of the freshly added visual humor relies on less demanding techniques like VFX and all sorts of involved typesetting and onomatopoeia. While the adaptation immediately established an identity, there’s also a feeling that the staff is encouraged to constantly come up with new amusing ways to present the manga’s content. The result is comparable to the moment-to-moment amusing experience of Kaguya-sama: not as imaginative nor diverse as Hatakeyama’s delightful nonsense, but by having a more decentralized directorial vision, you get many fresh takes on the directors’ vision.

So, what’s that vision like, and who is the staff behind it for that matter? The main name you will see making the rounds is that of chief director Ayumu Watanabe, who is finally getting the recognition he’s deserved for years after a very successful run in recent years. As a direct consequence of that success, however, Watanabe is so swamped with work that the project needed another Series Director, one much more involved with that immediate delivery that has made Komi-san so enjoyable to watch in the end. That person is Kazuki Kawagoe, who has been setting the tone even in outsourced episodes with his very amusing storyboards.

Between the two, they’ve created an atmospheric backdrop to the colorful cast that allows them to nicely pad the madness, greatly smoothing the transitions into the occasional sweet moments. And when it’s time to fire on all cylinders, which is essentially every other second in the show, their ability to make animation inherently fun to watch keeps on shining. While this is unsurprising given Watanabe’s pedigree—and his extensive experience at Shin-Ei Animation, where those precepts are the norm—it’s a very welcome turn for Kawagoe. His career had been dedicated to OLM’s much more limited productions, so it feels good to see a full realization of a potential we’d only caught glimpses of.

Now, directors having a solid plan goes a long way, but such a flamboyant adaptation would be unsustainable without careful planning. And that’s an aspect where the head of OLM Team Kojima, animation producer Hiroaki Kojima, deserves major props for building such a robust team. He pulled from his list of personal acquaintances, securing Ranma’s character designer Atsuko Nakajima to reinforce the vague 90s energy that the designs always had. He also made good use of OLM’s own talent, with the likes of Isao Nanba acting as an assistant director focused on the animation above all else, and a lineup of main animators that leans heavily towards action specialists; given how all the moments of delicacy are carried by the directors, it seems like a good idea to instead stock up on ace animators who can contribute to the hectic humor.

On top of that, Kojima has ensured that the team can receive the outside support they need. After going all out on the first episode, the second and third ones were fully outsourced to studio DEEN; giving a nice buffer to the in-house team, but still maintaining cohesion via Kawagoe’s boards and consistent accessory details like Naoki “yotube” Yoshibe’s effect supervision. This type of arrangement, quite unusual for an OLM project, should continue moving forward, and I believe that’s for the better of the production. It’s worth noting that, as impressive as Kojima’s management has been, this could very well be the end of OLM Team Kojima. He recently founded a studio of his own under Twin Engine’s umbrella—BUG FILMS, which is already credited for assisting Komi-san’s production—so he might concentrate his future efforts on that instead. Given the weird impasse the studio find themselves at, with success but also shifting focus and production lines closing left and right, it wouldn’t be a huge shock. But that’s a story for another day!

After invoking its popularity and praising the adaptation so much, you might be surprised to hear that I was never a fan of Komi-san. Reading it all the way through for the sake of this piece, my feelings on the manga have only soured even more. While I don’t mind the dozens upon dozens of one-note characters because that’s the shortcut it uses for the gags, those archetypes can range from not very funny to actively grating tropes—and that includes some major characters. The switch from the eccentricity that a cast like that generates to the occasional serious moment can be hard to stomach, and it’s got other structural issues as well; most notably, the manga chapters often being too short to self-contain a single scenario, meaning a single joke can be dragged out through multiple chapters.

To some degree, the anime has addressed every single one of my complaints, with varying degrees of success depending on how deeply rooted they were. While I know I’ll never be truly invested in these characters, the team has made the moment-to-moment experience exhilarating for the most part. The caveats are very much there as far as I’m concerned, but even then, I find this very much worth a try. If nothing else, the first episode is essentially a perfect short film that you owe to yourself to watch. And to the whole lot of you who already enjoyed the series: you pretty much won the lottery with this one. Enjoy!

Super Crooks (PV)
Director: Motonobu Hori
Character Designer: Takafumi Mitani
Concept Design: Stanislas Brunet (STUDIO NO BORDER)

Libo: With streaming platforms’ and investors’ growing interest in Japanese animation’s popularity, the rise of anime adaptations of foreign intellectual properties has been staggering. Given the magnitude of the actors involved, this has led to a huge inflow of capital towards the industry—which, in spite of all PR fluff pieces making the rounds in recent years, has done nothing to address anime’s actual problems. If anything, considering that the conditions for such productions aren’t really all that different and that they’re piling up more demand rather than replacing other projects, it has only had a mildly negative effect on an already overworked and understaffed industry. US companies will gladly push for their household IPs to be given a new spin, their Japanese counterparts will gladly take the offer based on the potential international success and the fact that many creators have adored those properties since childhood, and both of them will turn a blind eye on the consequences of unleashing a whole new type of demand in an industry with a depleted workforce. And believe me: this is only the beginning when it comes to this trend.

Super Crooks is obviously not at fault for any of this. For starters, because no individual project is the culprit for a trend like this, but also because the dynamics of this international relationship aren’t quite the same as the likes of a Star Wars anime. As a Netflix property part of their Millarworld imprint acquisition, it’s a relatively niche comic book that was directly offered to studio BONES for an adaptation; not a worldwide live-action phenomenon people were already raving about, but a short supervillain heist comic by the author of Kingsman and Kick-Ass. Why would any distributor want to adapt such a thing into anime? The truth is it was supposed to be a companion piece to Netflix’s live-action Jupiter’s Legacy series, but that turned out to be a big failure and was immediately discontinued. In a fun twist of fate, Netflix then opted to offer Super Crooks a live-action series in the future as a replacement of sorts. So in the end, the not super popular comic book is being turned into an anime before getting the mainstream live-action treatment that may or may not become the international hit Netflix seeks. As I said, quite a different dynamic!

But that’s enough about the context, what was it about this production in specific that caught our eye? Look no further than director Motonobu Hori, who is already putting the experience he gained while directing Carole & Tuesday under Shinichiro Watanabe’s supervision to good use in what will be his first solo directorial gig. Carole was a show with a diverse cast and great awareness of international audiences, so on paper, he’s a very natural choice to lead this project—here’s hoping that things pan out as well as it logically seems they should. With the source material being too short for a 13 episode series, author Mark Millar collaborated with the Japanese team to create whole 9 episodes of new content before getting to the existing material, giving the team leeway to go wild with the setting. Dai Sato, another collaborator of Shinichiro Watanabe, then turned all that material into the screenplay. Considering all this, it’s got plenty of room to surprise even those acquainted with the source material.

When it comes to the animation, we’ve got to highlight Takafumi Mitani‘s role in adapting Leinil Yu’s original art for animation. That’s a name you’ll likely recognize if you’ve been following this site for years, as back in 2017 we highlighted Mitani as an up-and-coming effects animation specialist. While he has lived up to the potential we saw then, his career then took a very interesting turn that no one foresaw. Mitani left My Hero Academia soon after and moved on to work with director Hori on Carole & Tuesday to focus on animating music performance scenes, which is about as far from flashy effects animation as you can go. After finishing the project, he briefly returned to My Hero Academia and to his old habits to handle a dazzling sequence in the second movie, and now has landed his first character design gig on Super Crooks. In retrospect, I can see how the angularity of his effects has translated into very geometrical designs that appear to be easy to articulate, but the lesson to learn here is that we should give up on guessing where his talents will take him. But one thing is safe to say: he did more for this show than merely designing the characters!

The teaser credits show other connections Hori made during the production of Carole, such as concept designer Stanislas Brunet of Studio No Border. Truth to be told, though, that’s only a fraction of the talented team that stands behind him, still hidden behind the curtains due to Netflix’s rigid marketing practices. What we can say is that a number of impressive animators have directly followed Hori to work with him yet again, while other staff joined based on their history with BONES B Studio; one of the most interesting names happened to get the opportunity to debut in roles they’d never had before, so that’s at least one big episode to look forward to! Based on the promotional videos, it’s also more than safe to assume that BONES’ 3DCG department had a blast creating exciting chases and similar dynamic setpieces to continue impressing their audience. Background art direction meanwhile appears to be in the hands of Ryo Kono of Mob Psycho and Carole fame—now those are names that speak for themselves. To find out the truth about all these mysteries, we’ll have to wait until the show debuts on November 25, so until then~!

Director, Series Composer: Junichi Wada
Assistant Series Director: Tenpei Mishio
Animation Character Designer: Shunpei Mochizuki
Concept Designer: Kazuma Koda
Kaiju Concept Art: Shouji Kawamori
Art Director: Minoru Onishi

Kevin: Sakugan’s very inception is a microcosm of the anime industry, its wild potential but also the inescapable issues; which is to say, that it started with some daring and original ideas servicing unreasonable commercial demands. The series is the first tangible result from Project Anima, a contest that had anime studios directly involved in the selection of stories that weren’t only compelling but also played to their strengths as submitted by the general public… with the transparently desperate goal of pushing out an anime as fast as possible. Those plans, which would have had Sakugan released in 2020, completely collapsed because of the pandemic. Reckless as the original idea may have been, the companies involved at least showed the willingness to pivot away from it when the circumstances blatantly called for it—something we can’t say of many concurrent projects.

The first episode, written and storyboarded by Series Director Junichi Wada, proved that the wait was worth it. While he’s hardly a household name, Wada’s work leading WorldEnd and Disappearence of Nagato Yuki-chan earned him a bit of a cult following. His ability to increase the gravitas of any scene he frames gives him that magnetism to it that all special directors have, and in this case, creates an interesting contrast with the content of his work. While the premise of adventuring through a mysterious setting with a robot might make you think otherwise, all staff members have noted that Sakugan was conceived as a grounded work; narratively and thematically so, as everything revolves around a father and daughter bond, and even physically so, because its very utilitarian mechs will be restricted by the environments they find themselves in. And as it turns out, when you mix an original setting with such down-to-earth ideas, then put a very grandiose director in charge, the outcome can be pretty magical.

While I wouldn’t put them quite on the same level, that contrast between Wada’s grandiose tendencies—including his aggressive compositing, especially the involved lighting—and the ultimately very human story he’s telling here reminds me of Atsuko Ishizuka’s works, which is always a good name to invoke. Similarly, I would say that the world is rightfully bringing Made in Abyss to mind for many folks; while more family-friendly, the setting with different biomes and cultures scattered throughout one dangerous unexplored world is just as inherently inviting for and adventure. Studio Satelight been a designer-centric studio for quite a while, as you would expect from their focus on sci-fi titles, and that clearly shows in Sakugan’s wealth of specific designers—ranging from concept artist Kazuma Koda of Nier fame to the one and only Shouji Kawamori, who was in charge of the kaiju for a change. A lot of interesting individual pieces that form a world you can’t help but want to learn more about.

Add to that the excellent, expressive animation supervision from the first episode and you have… a bit of a misleading intro, to be quite honest. This isn’t to say that the series has fundamentally changed in any way since then, but rather because the execution hasn’t kept up with the excellent premiere, and that these core strengths haven’t really been maximized. The quick effects of production fatigue, the noticeable gap between Wada’s boards and the rest, and a bit of a failure to exploit the potential of the setting have made for an entertaining series that could have been more. That said, given the interesting background and charming core, it felt well worth dedicating it a spot in this overview. Truly a missed opportunity that the title didn’t refer to mystic eyes of sakuga perception, though.

Director: Daisuke Hiramaki
Character Designer, Chief Animation Director, 3D Animation Director: Kanna Hirayama
Chief Animation Director: Marumi Sugita, Mai Matsuura
Main Animators: Takeshi Osame, Shun Sawai, Key-kun, coge, TOMATO
Art Director: Yuta Sakashita
Photography Director: Takehiro Go

Kevin: A season with multiple titles produced by studio Dogakobo should be a treat for those of us who appreciate attractive character animation. And that it is, but it also makes it a bit complicated to choose which one to highlight over the rest… which is quite the trivial issue when compared to having to actually make all those shows, as overproduction remains the number one problem for the studio. When all is said and done, Selection Project is the one that leaves the strongest impression from their current offerings: an original idol anime at the centerpiece of a multimedia endeavor, with no groundbreaking ideas but very strong execution. Writer Yuya Takahashi is well regarded in the fields of tokusatsu and mystery drama, but never really had a chance to make a name for himself in the world of anime. After a couple of stunts with Dogakobo, this time he appears to have a better canvas to showcase his skills; despite the obvious limitations in a multimedia project like this, Takahashi’s scripts have just about enough unexpected turns and devilishly placed hooks to understand why he’s a popular mystery writer.

And fortunately for him, he’s working with a robust team. Leading the animation we have Kanna “kappe” Hirayama, responsible for the adorable designs and the intricate, thorough supervision that characterizes her. Just last year, kappe shocked her peers by revealing that she had supervised every single shot in the anime adaptation of KanoKari; singular chief animation directors are becoming more of a rarity, and pulling that off without cutting a single corner and while contributing animation to a bunch of projects felt like a superhuman feat. This time around, kappe will have to split that workload—precisely because there is more KanoKari on the horizon—but her presence won’t be missed. For starters, because the mix of ornate supervisors and acting specialists as main animators still keeps the show thoroughly polished and expressive, but also because kappe is still inescapable. She doesn’t miss one drawing in the episodes she oversees, and she’s even redrawing the CG performances. When I said she was leading the animation, I meant it.

Most importantly, though, the director of the show is Daisuke Hiramaki, whose spacious vision already left a very strong impression in last year’s Koisuru Asteroid. Hiramaki is hardly a new face, having gradually built up his skillset as a key animator, supervisor, and episode director for nearly two decades, but something definitely seems to have clicked for him recently after he started being entrusted with entire projects. The layouts that had always been his forte have only grown more eye-catching ever since his higher responsibility roles have forced him to pay more attention to aspects like the lighting and even the narrative significance of his framing, and the studio’s proficiency at handling three-dimensional environments for non-action purposes complete a pretty neat series of synergies. Although Selection Project isn’t the most original on paper, this strong delivery makes a compelling case for it.

Other Titles

  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: It felt weird not to dedicate at least a mention to arguably the biggest title of the season, but as smart of an idea as it was to have an enhanced recap of the film to give themselves extra buffer to produce the sequel while getting the audience excited all over again, it means there isn’t much to say about Kimetsu for now. The low priority of the special premiere played in its favor in a way, granting it a better storyboarder than the subpar series director himself, and a mere look at the show was enough of a reminder that ufotable’s in-house synergy still gives great cohesion to even the most disparate-feeling elements—something that makes other mainstream action titles pale in comparison. You can look forward to more extensive coverage of that whenever the show exists in a more substantial form.
  • 86: Eighty Six Part 2: I don’t think I’m overselling 86 by pointing out that it was one of the most inspired adaptations in recent years, with source material that was already better than it had any right to be. The way that Series Director Toshimasa Ishii fundamentally intertwined techniques of his liking—such as the (mis)match cuts, smooth visually but with deliberate tonal clashes—to the narrative and themes of his work already reminds me of Mamoru Hosoda, which makes sense as he’s worked as his assistant. While the structure of the second half allows the team for a more straightforward delivery, they’re still going out of their own way to underline the themes in elegant fashion. The schedule is even tighter for season 2, but otherwise, more of the same we’ve already covered at length. And that’s a very good thing!
  • Mushoku Tensei Part 2: I talked at length about Mushoku Tensei in the corresponding preview, and for the good and the very bad, my feelings have changed. For those who have no problem stomaching it, though, I should point out that while the schedule has gotten noticeably tighter and some big names for the first part amicably parted ways with the team to focus on other projects, the fundamentals are still there and the replacements will continue to deliver flashy work. This is not to say that there will be no effects to that production fatigue, but they’re bound to be the type of rough edges that most viewers barely even perceive.
  • Blue Period: In a better world, Blue Period would have been right at the top of this piece, celebrating that an exceptional series got the treatment it deserved. The manga is a fascinating dive into the pursuit of an artistic career, with a palpable feeling of authenticity reinforced by details like its constant usage of pieces by art students, but also a very compelling narrative about the hardships of pursuing what you love that you can easily extrapolate to other fields. On paper, its team should have been up for the challenge; it’s got a very synergistic team led by chief director Koji Masunari and old acquaintances of his, and even the art aspect is in good hands with Aoshashin’s team—the same ones doing a spectacular job on Ousama Ranking. In reality, things immediately fell apart, as they’ve been clearly rushed and studio Seven Arcs hasn’t been able to offer a proper safety net. Do yourself a favor and go read the manga instead.

  • Lupin the Third: Part VI: The latest iteration of Lupin the Third began on a touching note: a special episode to bid farewell to Jigen’s voice actor Kiyoshi Kobayashi, the one remaining member from the original crew, built around the character himself pondering about his place in a modern era. The series has since then taken an angle reminiscent of other modern serialized Lupin with a focus on the overarching narrative over episodic adventures, though giving it a unique identity that matches its Holmesian setting by building a team of non-anime writers that specialize in detective fiction… as well as Mamoru Oshii, which is quite the flex for the team. Unfortunately, the decline of the production values in Lupin has gotten bad enough to be immersion-breaking, as even the type of sequence that was once iconic is now oddly unsatisfying. An interesting series that becomes a bit of a bummer once you think that not even anime’s most historic properties aren’t safe from the increasingly messy behind the scenes situation.
  • The Faraway Paladin: Isekai tensei is such a tired setup that pointing that out is a tired complaint in and of itself, but Saihate no Paladin quickly establishes a personality of its own by ignoring the genre’s worst tendencies like gamified mechanics, instead constructing its own neat mythology to accompany a nice character story. Unfortunately, the anime adaptation is on the subpar side of things, ranging from being incapable of elevating the material to actively doing it a disservice. While some individual elements work fine, the basic priorities of the storytelling are slightly off, and the execution resulting from a messy production where multiple layers of outsourcing are the norm does it no favors. Having enjoyed what I read, though, I’d still point towards this series if you want to see how a currently overplayed premise can be developed into a much more compelling fantasy series—beware of the barebones delivery, though!
  • My Senpai is Annoying: The other Dogakobo offering this season is representative of the studio’s current state, for the good and for the bad. Uzai Senpai is remarkably good at threading together the charming yet barebones source material, making good use of Dogakobo’s character animation prowess to pick and choose between more realistic concepts and cartoonier approaches as they see fit. At the end of the day, it’s still enjoyable to see their characters go on with their lives, and the animation has a lot to do with that. At the same time, though, we’re talking about a team in a constant state of overproduction and that does show as well; the only reason My Senpai is Annoying got a lot of work finished before the broadcast was that this same team is handling the adaptation of Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie in a few months. It’s hard for the studio’s works to live up to their real potential—unless Ryohei Takeshita sweeps in to direct a fantastic opening!
  • AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline: When talking about Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway a few months back, we pointed out that one of the factors that led to such a fancy movie opting for mostly CGi robots was that the team at Sunrise Beyond was concentrating on a 2D mecha pipeline for Kyoukai Senki, and it’s really hard to keep those functioning concurrently nowadays. And so here it is, a series so dedicated to traditional mechs that it literally does not have any 3D staff whatsoever… which might have been an overcommitment as they can’t really keep up the polish given the show’s overall limited production values. Those mixed feelings sorta apply to the whole thing: the weirdly down-to-earth backstory that led to the Code Geass-like scenario clashes a bit with the kids anime feel it’s got, especially for what’s a latenight title in the end. Anachronic in many ways, but I know for a fact that is a positive aspect for a bunch of mecha fans.
  • takt op.Destiny: The outrageous effects of MAPPA throwing takt op.Destiny‘s production under the bus seem to have led to people believing that they’re dragging down Madhouse’s good work, when the truth is that the team led by animation producer Fukushi also sort of sacrificed this project in favor of giving their all on Sonny Boy; it’s not quite as apparent because they have a semblance of an internal organization unlike their younger sibling, but it’s telling that even the show’s designer overstayed in the actual passion project that preceded it. When a derivative action series that got all its character from ridiculous slapstick and high production values immediately loses those two aspects, all you’re left is a flavorless, committee-approved paste.
  • Kaginado: For the 10 people out there watching Kaginado, I just want to point out that the team at Liden Kyoto producing this show has a whole bunch of ex-KyoAni members, including Series Director Kazuya Sakamoto. If it feels like they get the KEY characters and are very good at riffing on those series, it’s because they quite literally made them in the first place. See, not all anime industry trivia is depressing.
  • Have We Hit The Age Of The Vampire All Over Again Or What: Even as someone with a fondness for vampires, I must say that having at the very least 3 vampire-centric anime in one season is an unmanageable flood in the blood-sucking market. So which one’s the best, then? Visual Prison is exactly what you would expect from the tagline Agematsu Visual Kei Vampires, but despite having pulled out quite the crazy stunt, the overall production can’t live up to the fabulous fun of the concept—perhaps because this same team is due to produce Kaguya-sama S3 soon. In the end, I have to go with Irina The Vampire Cosmonaut: an alternate history retelling of the cold war space race where the soviets happen to have vampires, switching from condemning discrimination to weirdly suggestive framing at the drop of a hat. Or rather, at the spin of a camera, because this is another entry in Akitoshi Yokoyama‘s fascinatingly weird career.
  • The Shortest Notes About Other Titles Among The Other Titles: Taishou Otome is the cutest show you’re not watching, and Deji Meets Girl the cutest one you probably can’t even watch. Still not sure about the best new kids anime, but it’s gotta be between Digimon‘s actually original offering for a change and the Pretty series returning to something more akin to Pretty Rhythm‘s self-serious madness with Primagi. You should watch the opening for World’s Finest Assassin by indie artist Ayaka Nakata. Stop asking me about Muvluv Alternative please I’m begging you. Anyway, did you know that they dropped 4 dude vtubers into a deserted island to fend for themselves? They somehow lived to tell the tale and unveiled that they formed a group called ROF-MAO—yes it’s named after that—to do dumb crap like that together. That’s my anime of the season I guess.

Support us on Patreon to help us reach our new goal to sustain the animation archive at Sakugabooru, sakuga Video on Youtube, as well as this sakuga Blog. Thanks to everyone who’s helped out so far!

Become a Patron!

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kumiko's Cactus
Kumiko's Cactus
9 months ago

Blue Period is a sad case. Could have been a classic with the right staff and schedule, and the core staff looked promising. Is every Seven Arcs project just doomed from the start?

Isn’t Kojima returning for Summertime Rendering? The PV for that looked quite increbile, and it seems to be the core Major 2nd S2 staff.

Last edited 9 months ago by Kumiko's Cactus
Kumiko's Cactus
Kumiko's Cactus
4 months ago
Reply to  kViN

Do you suppose the recently announced Witch Hat Atelier anime could be team Kojima’s next project, possibly at his new studio? There was some speculation because Kojima retweeted the recent WHA announcements, and according to his bio he’s working on a new project.

9 months ago

I’ve missed these! Glad to see them back.

The Blue Period anime has been nothing short of depressing; my love for the manga has kept me from watching past episode three. Even friends with little knowledge or care for the animation process have pointed out how janky everything looks.

Surprised to see no Shinka no Mi mentions anywhere here, I’ve heard it’s a disaster in the more interesting ways, production and plot-wise.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jess
8 months ago
Reply to  kViN

It amazes me that Children’s Playground is allowed to keep producing shows this way. Even MAPPA would tell them to tone that nonsense down with the amount of outsourcing going on.

9 months ago

This is an observation I’ve had for some time regarding fantasy anime (even isekai fantasy). We in the West tend to come at fantasy from novels like Lord of the Rings and adjacent media like Dungeons & Dragons RPGs. But the Japanese do not have this background. Instead, it all comes from JRPG video games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. So all they know is levels and skill points and special abilities. So of course their “fantasy” is filled withgamified mechanics” because that’s all that they know.

9 months ago

I’m sorry but Kyoukai Senki, aka AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline is crap. It’s like an ultra nationalist propaganda anime. Boohoo, Japan is being occupied (for no reason). Boohoo, the world is racist towards Japanese people (for no reason). Japan can still fight with its superior technology that nobody has (for no reason). Bandai/Sunrise should be ashamed. In Code Geass, the Holy Britannian Empire was brutal to everyone else and Japan had a strategic value because of the sakuradite superconductor resource, which in turn produced the technology necessary for Nightmare Frames. Sure it’s goofy but at least it had plenty… Read more »

9 months ago

I can sense a deep form of cynism behind your words in regards for the state of this industry lol

9 months ago

Any thoughts so far on s3 of world trigger?

9 months ago
Reply to  Ducky

If anything, a post about Season 2 earlier in the year would have been more fitting; Akihiro Ota left an incredible mark especially as the sole key animator for Episode 2.

9 months ago
Reply to  Ducky

Plus, didn’t they already do an article on Toei recently with Precure, kek?

9 months ago

Thanks a lot for the write-up

8 months ago

Looking back, I agree on Komi having a great 1st episode, but the material can’t really sustain it. I don’t see any character development in the ensuing episodes, which tracks with your dislike of the manga. I enjoy takt op.Destiny. The first episodes are strongest, writing-wise, and then it drops off slightly, as the slice-of-life elements lose screen time to the big baddies, but I love the musical treatment that this anime has received. You probably have a point in that it was below your expectations, but it’s one of my favorites this season. 86 S2 couldn’t meet the expectations… Read more »