Winter 2021 First Impressions: Thinking Outside the Box

I hate to sound like a broken record already, but as long as we’re getting anime and staying alive in 2021, we’re fine.

So this is the order I’m taking this time – although a bunch of anime have come out at this point (see explanation at end of post), I’m gonna take each one roughly as it came out originally, meaning the list looks something like this:

  • Vladlove
  • Skate-Leading Stars
  • Suppose a Kid...(etc.)
  • Hortensia Saga
  • Kumo Desu Ga, Nanika? (currently free on Crunchyroll despite being much later if you factor in the 1 week wait, hence its moving upwards)
  • 2.43
  • Cells at Work!!
  • Cells at Work: Code Black
  • Back Arrow
  • Tomozaki
  • Praeter
  • Sk8
  • Horimiya
  • Mushoku Tensei
  • Kemono Jihen
  • Wonder Egg Priority
  • IChu
  • YuruCamp s2
  • Heaven’s Design Team
  • Ramune
  • Ex-Arm
  • Dr Stone: Stone Wars
  • Wave! Surfing Yappe!
  • Bungo Stray Dogs Wan!

Vladlove

For some reason, I keep thinking this is a spring 2021 anime, but apparently it starts in February. I didn’t take any proper notes due to that, but even though it has some cool Masahiro Ando-style inserts (for examples of those, see Astra and Hanako, which are actually by Ando) and everything about it yells “yesteryear” in a way that almost seems cool, the story was so obviously from a lesbian/straight dude’s perspective and they kept saying things that the audience knew already, so I stuck it out to the halfway mark purely to mark one episode off (if I get to the halfway mark, I’ll put the episode down as completed) and then dropped it like a hot rock.

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Skate-Leading Stars

Well, it might not be the most solid thing ever, but it’s a pretty strong start to the winter 2021 season! (…Give or take Vladlove.)

I don’t quite like the blackmail component of this and the fact Maeshima and Yamada don’t look very alike strains credulity, but…so long as we get bois skatin’, we good. For that, the anime delivered in spades. It’s got a nice sense of motion, both off and on the ice, and the watercolours and Yana Toboso character designs help with that immensely…(yes, even if Reo looks like he’s basically Bam from Tower of God…)

Update as of episode 2: Maeshima still sucks as a protagonist, to the point where I’m rooting for the other team to win. I understand why the team doesn’t want him, but it’s inevitable they’re going to have to take him eventually because this is a team sport.

Notes (nothing much from episode 1, so these are from episode 2):

  • …The episode title is actually “Blank”. Not “Break”.
  • One of the guys’ shirts says moteki on it. That’s a period in one’s life where one enjoys more romantic attention than usual, literally “popularity season”.
  • The subs missed an I, so initially I knew Kiriyama’s name as “Kiryama”.
  • There are meant to be 2 wings, right…?
  • The plait guy jumps to nicknames really fast…also, why do I get the feeling Maeshima will lose the key?
  • That blocky building looks pretty cool. I think Zel (of Archi-Anime) would like it.
  • Well, the guy’s (Souta…?) shirt does say moteki
  • Kiriyama kinda looks like Jyuto (HypMic), come to think of it…Right down to his angry streak (although Jyuto has a reputation to keep as a “cool dude”, while Kiriyama is more of a Manza (Boueibu HK) and he’s more angry than he looks).

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Suppose a Kid…(etc.)

I keep writing “etc” on the end of this series because I am not writing that name out again and again.

It takes a while to get going (the combat test that’s mentioned about halfway in only starts showing up at the end) and I had to keep giving this episode some goodwill because I kept getting slightly irritated and/or sighing at things from it – it’s not funny, just brightly coloured but dense like Lloyd is. Aside from the tiger “aura” at the end though, there’s nothing of note here – yandere princess in love with Lloyd, mercenary trying to get their name cleared who’s scared of Lloyd, mentor witch who’s scared of Lloyd’s parental figure…it’s all a mishmash of tropes you’ve seen before, probably done better to boot.

Notes:

  • The name “Shouma” rang a bell and I was right – Shouma is voiced by Souma…Saito.
  • The Japanese title has “monogatari” on the end there…so it probably doesn’t fully translate into the English title.
  • These orange flecks in Lloyd’s eyes are kinda distracting…
  • Isn’t Kunlun in China, though…? (Does real-life China exist in this fantasy world?)
  • The missing princess is certainly going to be a plot point later. Update: It might be Selen, for all I know. Or some character we haven’t met yet who’ll become part of Lloyd’s harem…*sigh*
  • Didn’t Lloyd say he sucked at combat…?
  • Update: Not even “loli grandma” was a funny thing for me…maybe I’m too used to only having certain types of humour thrown at me.

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Hortensia Saga

A perfectly average high fantasy which I expected to be more like a game tutorial and was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t turn out that way. Beware the squeaky girl voices, the CGI and the mascot that goes -moru, though.

Notes:

  • Here for Ume! He’s voicing a guy called Defloitte Danois.
  • I-Is that CGI? So early on into the anime???
  • *a dude gets bitten into by the werewolf*…welp, at least this series isn’t afraid of its own gore.
  • The book appears to use English, albeit English so faintly inked in you can’t quite tell what language it is.
  • Alfred, governing Albert…? Isn’t that a bit redundant?
  • All these high fantasy anime – or heck, any high fantasy series full stop – never justify why the country is worth fighting for. It’s why I find war stories pointless and senseless.
  • You can tell from the voice and short stature “Marius” is Mariel…but she uses boku, which is why Alfred can’t really tell the difference. (Also, he wasn’t privy to the fact Mariel cut her hair.)
  • Roy’s kind of pretty, in a generic way.
  • A close-range archer! Ho, you’re kinda impressive yourself, Roy. (The feeling of a game tutorial has disappeared by this point.)
  • Hortense…of Hortensia…how confusing.
  • The scruffy guy you keep seeing with the dark hair is Defloitte. Keep an eye out for him for me, would you?
  • The ED seems to consist mostly of…anguished pop screams. *cringes slightly*

Ratings

Keepers:

  • Skate-Leading Stars (2 eps)
  • Hortensia Saga (1 ep)

Dropped:

  • Suppose a Kid (etc.) (1 ep)
  • Vladlove (1 ep)

So how do you like these anime? Are there any other anime I should be checking out this season? (Note I haven’t gotten around to most of them at the time of writing this post due to things like clearing up fall backlog, plus #AniTwitWatches and that translation sucking up more time than I’d like to admit, so it might take a bit until the corresponding post comes out, but you can see my pre-season list here.)

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