Hello! The end of winter is almost upon us, so it’s once again time to talk about the latest seasonal anime releases. There was a strong selection of shows this time around, but like before, this series only covers my personal favorites, so I apologize in advance if your own favorites didn’t make the cut. Also, considering the large volume of high-profile sequels this time around, I’m implementing a new restriction to the list: there can be only two direct sequels per season. This is to ensure the first-time entries have a better chance to shine amidst the long-runners. That being said, let’s get right into it!
Let’s start things off with Horimiya. Set in a typical high-school environment, this is a show about the budding relationship between Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura, hence the title. So you know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? Well, that’s a good way to describe this anime’s premise in a nutshell.
Hori is seen by many as a star student; she has a likable personality, her grades are always good, and she’s popular on top of all that. Miyamura, by contrast, is seen as quiet and anti-social. An okay guy, maybe, but not someone that’s easily approachable. However, that’s only one side of them.
Outside of school, Hori’s hard at work taking care of her younger brother, and she’s saddled with all of the household chores. Also, she’s occasionally prone to violent outbursts. Miyamura, meanwhile, is pretty laid-back, though a bit dense. He also hides ear piercings behind his long hair, as well as several tattoos on his arms and back.
The two happen to meet in the streets one day, and discovering these hidden sides of each other, a deeper bond is formed. It’s neat to see how all of the characters bounce off each other, including the side cast as well. Also, Horimiya has more relationship development in its first four episodes than most romance shows get in an entire season, so that’s a definite plus.
Wonder Egg Priority
Wonder Egg Priority
Wonder Egg Priority. This show… what do I even say about it? Well, for starters, it came completely out of left field, for me at least. It wasn’t even on my radar of shows to watch out for this season, at least not until I saw the praise it was receiving on Reddit. This’ll be a hard one to explain without too many spoilers, but I’ll give it a shot.
Ohto Ai, a teenage girl with heterochromia, is a shut-in. She refuses to attend school, both to avoid the bullying and from the guilt brought about by a certain incident involving a close friend. One day, she comes across this strange egg which contains the soul(?) of a deceased girl, whom she must protect in her dreams until dawn. With the belief that she may find some closure regarding the incident, Ohto continues down this path and collects more eggs, meeting new friends along the way.
This anime is an odd one. More than just an anime, it’s a work of art, an exploration of the human psyche, a depiction of the many faces of mental trauma. I don’t even know if I have the words to properly express the things that Wonder Egg Priority makes me feel, no single-paragraph explanation can do this work justice.
Laid-Back Camp Season 2
Yuru Camp△ Season 2
On the opposite end of the mind-bending spectrum, we have Yuru Camp. It’s just a light-hearted show about a group of friends with a shared interest in outdoor camping. Yep, that’s about it. No deeper analysis required.
We experience the sights of Japan from the views of two central characters: Rin Shima, an experienced solo camper, and Nadeshiko Kagamihara, a bright-eyed girl who’s only just begun to see the joys of camping. The first season was more focused on comparing the solo experience to the group experience, while this second season is putting more emphasis on the sight-seeing elements of camping.
I like camping. We don’t do it nearly as much anymore, but it used to be a nice yearly family trip. This show gives me a sense of nostalgia. It makes me want to go out to some remote camping site, pitch a tent, and read a book by a campfire. Sadly, that’s not something I can realistically do at the moment, but it’s still fun to dream.
SK8 the Infinity
I like the outdoors, but I’m not really into sports. I’m not quick to react to things, I don’t have good balance, and I have no skateboarding experience. So, why’d I choose to watch a skateboarding anime? Well, I’d heard this anime has a Canadian protagonist, and being Canadian myself, this caught my attention. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
The premise revolves around ‘S’, an illicit skateboard-racing event at an abandoned mining facility. Here, anything goes, and the participants can duel against others and express themselves away from the public eye. One day, aloof Canadian transfer student Langa Hasegawa moves into the area, and is taken under the wing of skateboard fanatic Reki Kyan. A delivery job gets Langa entangled in S, where it’s discovered he has a natural talent for the sport, though his only experience is in the sister sport of snowboarding.
Even if you’re like me and know nothing about skateboarding, you can tell that this anime is a passion project. The tricks and movements are all well-animated. An actual world exists outside the event, and the participants of S have real lives outside the course. It’s a bit niche, but SK8 the Infinity is investing nonetheless.
Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World Season 2 Part 2
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2nd Season Part 2
Subaru Natsuki, a bombastic otaku, is one day thrust into a fantasy world. Expecting a cool time, he’s instead stuck there with no exposition or cultural understanding, no usable money, and no weapons or magic except the power to rewind time… which only activates via his own death. With only the things already on his person, he’s forced to survive in a kingdom where death is always right around the corner.
At the moment, a certain someone’s trying to force him into an impossible problem, where he can’t progress forward without making a sacrifice. Subaru being Subaru, he refuses, of course. This 2nd part is his big play, using everything he’s learned so far to change the rules, break free, and save everyone.
Re:Zero is many things. It’s a fleshed-out world with intricate back-story and memorable characters. It’s a subversive fantasy blended with comedy and drama, sprinkled with horror and existential dread. It’s an otaku’s dream and worst nightmare. The you-know-what threw a wrench into the production schedules of many shows, including this one, but it’s good to see that this anime at least was able to roll with the punches.
*If you can’t handle disturbing content, or you’re new to the fantasy genre, I would not recommend this anime.*
There you have it then, My Five Picks of Winter 2021 Anime. If any of these shows piqued your interest, go ahead and give them a try!
(Hi, this is Future Tyler, I’ll be stepping in for a moment. I’m doing some structural updates, and to make the formatting more consistent, I’m gonna retroactively add in a few honorable mentions. That cool with you, Past Tyler? Okay, great.)
Imagine, if you will, a human body. Each cell has a specialized job to do, and everything works in harmony to keep your body healthy and happy. Now… what if those cells were all little people, and the body is their workplace? That’s basically what Cells At Work!! (Hataraku Saibou Season 2) is.
Cells At Work: Code Black (Hataraku Saibou Black) takes that same premise, and puts a darker and more mature spin on it. Every day, the cells within struggle desperately just to survive, and the body isn’t well-maintained.
One more thing: So I’m A Spider, So What? (Kumo desu ga, Nani ka?). Following a strange disaster, a full classroom of people is reincarnated into another world. One student, Kumoko, is unfortunate enough to inherit the body of a weak spider in the world’s most dangerous dungeon. This anime has great world-building and a cool power system, but the 3D animation isn’t exactly high-quality.
(Alright, the floor’s yours again, Past Tyler. Sorry to disturb you.)
Now, before you go, it’s time for the TyDe Awards! These are awarded to a Pick which performed particularly strongly in a certain creative aspect. They’re mostly the same as before, with one key difference: I’m restructuring Best OST into Best Sound Design. In addition to background music, sound effects will now also be considered while judging.
The TyDe Awards
Best Opening: Iro Kousui by Yoh Kamiyama (Horimiya)
This first award was a contest between Horimiya and Wonder Egg Priority. I like both songs almost equally, and they each use comparable imagery, but the deciding factor for me was again the former’s visual quality. I prefer the more dynamic style and the aesthetic of the shifting panels.
Best Ending: Haru no Tonari by Eri Sasaki (Yuru Camp S2)
Yuru Camp, by its very nature, is a comfy show. The ending reflects this vibe perfectly, both the first season’s ending (Furu Biyori, also by Eri Sasaki) and this new ending. It reflects the end of a long day, when you can just set aside your worries and rest. You could easily fall asleep listening to it, it’s that kind of song.
Best Sound Design: Re:Zero
The other Picks all have good sound as well, but Re:Zero‘s soundtrack sits on a higher plane when it comes to quality. It sets the mood exceptionally well in every aspect, from the light-hearted moments to the high-stakes fights and the anxiety-driven scenes. The sounds are fitting as well, nothing feels particularly out of place, and I can even tolerate some of the sounds that would otherwise make me consider dropping a show.
Best Animation: SK8 the Infinity
The make-or-break part of any sports show, anime or not, is how the action scenes are presented. Sk8 The Infinity knows this, and they go all out with it. Every race is high-speed, high-tension, and pushes the limits of what can be done with a skateboard. The racers have their own motifs, expressed in their clothing and special moves. Again, I’m not a skateboarder, so I can’t comment on whether the moves can be performed irl. They do account for us non-skaters though, so they present the basics in ways that even we can grasp, as well as going over the general theory behind the more complex moves used in the show.
Best Story: Wonder Egg Priority
As well-executed as Re:Zero is, I think I’m gonna have to give this one to Wonder Egg Priority. Right from the outset, it sucks you in, which is no small feat for a show with such a bizarre premise. It keeps this momentum going through the next few episodes as well, and you can’t help but wonder where it’s going next. I don’t want to say much else about it, you’re better off going into it blind.
Best Main Character: No Winner
Yeah, I honestly don’t know if anyone really deserves this spot. Horimiya‘s characters work best in a group dynamic, not individually. Ohto is cute, but I can’t help feeling that something’s not quite right, though I’m not quite sure what it is. Rin, though she does serve her role in the story perfectly well, is a bit one-dimensional. Langa’s cool, but I don’t really feel connected to him, aside from his nationality. Subaru… is Subaru. He has the most points working for him, but he also has a lot of points working against him.
Best Supporting Character: Reki Kyan (Sk8 the Infinity)
I may not feel much connection with Langa, but that’s what Reki’s here for. He’s the hot-headed character foil, the supporting mentor and the group’s weakest link, the character most viewers can relate to. This show would not be nearly as good as it is without someone like Reki to bridge the gap; at best, it would be an animated compilation of cool skateboarding moves.