2021 Anime in Review
by Rakka • Tags: review anime
In 2021 I continued my degeneracy of watching more anime than ever. My anime of the year would probably be a film, and none of the shows stood out as much as Hanasaku Iroha did last year, so instead, let’s go through everything I watched real quick:
- takt op.Destiny: a gacha game tie-in with excellent animation, but not much of a story. Despite having lots of musical imagery and naming, it also doesn’t really use that theme well—this was a huge disappointment, since that was the only thing that really made it stand out.
- Aiura: a short 4-koma adaptation that I watched solely due to some GIF on reddit.
“I’m annoyed because it could have been so much more”:
- Angel Beats: Haibane Renmei without good pacing or any sense of subtlety. It could have been more than the sum of its parts, if the side characters had been trimmed and the actual plot revealed quickly enough to develop the themes.
- Fena: Pirate Princess: it went off the rails very quickly, but not so much that I didn’t hold out hope until the last episode. Trimming some of the cast, giving more (any?) agency to the main character, and relying less on supernatural bullshit would’ve made for an amazing show in the same themes as Yona of the Dawn, but regrettably we got something fairly forgettable.
Decent to pretty good:
- Bang Dream: if you like idol anime, here’s another!
- Chronicles of the Going Home Club: a 4-koma adaptation that isn’t always funny, but can be quite enjoyable. Not afraid to make lots of meta jokes.
- Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: the first episode can be quite a turn-off with the amount of cruel bullying it shows, but things soften up so long as you’re willing to accept that our spineless MC somehow doesn’t change schools after enduring that.
- Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya: …very questionable… and not as many fights as I wanted.
- Fate/Zero: not as many fights as I wanted, either.
- Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! (2 seasons): a little cringey (on purpose), but the characters grow up nicely, and KyoAni’s excellent animation carries the day as usual.
- Release the Spyce: a more generic version of Princess Principal with less interesting characters and a hell of a lot more drug use.
- To Your Eternity: some production problems hold it back and the plot manages to be both repetitive and completely wacky in the second half of the show, but the first few arcs are incredibly emotional and the show is worth watching for that alone.
- The Aquatope on White Sand: part of PA Works’ “working women” series, Aquatope follows two women working at an aquarium from high school through early adulthood. There’s a little bit of everything: you get to watch them and their friends grow up and find their way in life, and learn what they want to do and what it takes to be an adult. The only thing I’m disappointed by is the music: compared to Hanasaku Iroha, having no insert songs kinda took away some of the charm for me, and I think Hanasaku is still my favorite just because of nano.RIPE’s excellent songs.
- Erased: while the main villain might be a little too obvious, the atmosphere draws you in and it’s nice seeing things set up in Hokkaido.
- Hinamatsuri: mix the yakuza, parenting, and a supernatural shonen battler, and you get Hinamatsuri. It’s fairly funny, sadly, the rest of the story isn’t adapted.
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (2 seasons): a…slice-of-life…? that has it all, from epic fights to Python programming, so long as you can accept the ridiculous character designs.
- Non Non Biyori (3 seasons): who knew doing nothing could be so fun. Brought to you by the Japanese countryside tourism bureau.
- Plastic Memories: a more interesting show than I expected at first—and I respect that it commits fully to its ending.
- Searching for the Full Moon: probably my favorite on this list. Mitsuki, a 12 year old girl battling throat cancer, one day is visited by shinigami (spirits of death) preparing to take her away in one year, though she shouldn’t be able to see them. When they realize this, they decide to take pity on her and help her realize her dream, giving her the power to transform into a healthy 16 year old idol. She then uses her remaining year of life to search for her childhood friend and first love, Eichi, while climbing the ladder to stardom. It does suffer from a lot of filler content which ruins the pacing, and it is ultimately a shōjo aimed at young girls (so don’t expect anything too deep or complex), but it does manage to tackle concepts about death and the failure to fulfill dreams thoughtfully. Also, the idol who sings the songs (and who serves as Mitsuki’s voice actor) has a lovely deep voice, always a plus.
Symphogear (Season 1): while I wish the series had stuck with (spoilers), and the plot really makes no sense, I’ve found I’m clearly a sucker for anything that’s a combination of magical girls and idols (where I use both genres loosely, so Searching for the Full Moon and Revue Starlight both count for me). My third favorite on this list.
I am rather disappointed they don't stick with the character deaths. This even happens multiple times, where it looks like a character died, only to have them reappear a little bit later.