Hi! How’s it going? It’s about that time again, huh? The end of a season draws near, and so I highlight my favorite anime of the outgoing season. There was a strong showing this Spring, stronger even than the Winter 2021 season… so with that in mind, I’m adding a new section, dedicated to the ones that didn’t quite make the cut (more on that later). Now then, these are My Five Picks of the Spring 2021 anime season!
Hiroshi Odokawa, an aging taxi driver, is an odd fellow who doesn’t mince his words. Though he interacts with others daily, he’s neither outgoing nor extroverted, and has no interest in modern trends. He has a few close friends, and enjoys listening to the radio during work, but not much is otherwise known about him.
One day, Odokawa becomes a person of interest in a kidnapping case. His peaceful life is thrown into chaos, as his dash-cam data also catches the interest of the local yakuza. Now, caught in the middle of a power struggle in the criminal underworld, Odokawa is forced to adapt and play along if he has any hope of survival.
This show absolutely deserves more attention. The character writing is phenomenal, it’s got a great commentary on the nature of justice, the OP has a nice vibe to it, and the story is well-executed. Don’t let the animal designs turn you away, that’s mostly just a stylistic choice.
Fruits Basket: The Final
Fruits Basket Season 3
Ah, Fruits Basket. A staple romance/drama series, you’d be hard-pressed to find an anime fan who hasn’t at least heard the name. With how unceremoniously the first adaptation ended, it’s good to see that this series is finally getting a proper conclusion.
Brief run-down, if you’re not in the loop: Tohru Honda, a high-school girl, finds herself homeless and orphaned after the sudden death of her mother. She’s found and taken in by the Souma family, which is beset by a bloodline curse: If a Souma is embraced by someone of the opposite gender, they transform into an animal of the Chinese Zodiac.
At this point, the bonds of the curse are already starting to fray… but Tohru takes it upon herself to do something about it. Question is, what, if anything, can she do?
Deep in the woods, there exists a dark manor, hidden far from any human eyes. In this manor, there lives an aristocratic family, whose bodies are pitch-black and emit soot. Known as the Shadows, they employ ‘Living Dolls’ to act both as soot cleaners and faces, to convey the emotions their Masters cannot.
The aloof Mistress Kate, one such Shadow Master, is paired with the cheery doll Emilico. As part of the newest generation, they must come to rely on and bond with each other. Indeed, their lives may depend on it, for the Shadows House tolerates no dissent among its ranks. What secrets hide in the shadows, and why do the Dolls so closely resemble their Masters?
I like this anime’s air of mystery. While spooky, it doesn’t go overboard on the fear factor, and the gothic lolita style compliments this atmosphere nicely. The characters play well off of each other, and the manor is both grand and foreboding, as it should be. I’m curious to see where the story goes from here.
To Your Eternity
Fumetsu no Anata e
One day, an orb was dropped into a tundra… but not just any orb, no. It’s a sentient orb, one with the power to shape-shift into nearby things and beings. Also, it’s immortal, and regenerates any damage it takes.
However, it starts off with no knowledge of anything: emotions, pain, movement, hunger, death… it knows of nothing except its own existence. Starting from the form of a rock and moving up to more complex beings, it wanders aimlessly, in search of new stimulating experiences.
The first episode, man… I saw it coming from a mile away, but it still got me. If you’re looking for an emotional journey, To Your Eternity‘s got you covered. Do be forewarned, however, that this anime has some disturbing imagery at times.
Welcome To Demon School! Iruma-kun 2nd Season
Mairimashita! Iruma-kun 2nd Season
Suzuki Iruma’s always had a rough life. He’s too kind-hearted to ever turn down a request, which led to others constantly taking advantage of him. Most 14 year olds would be in junior high… but Iruma’s always working. As if that wasn’t bad enough, his ungrateful parents sell him off to a powerful demon by the name of Sullivan, who whisks Iruma away to his home in the demon world.
As it turns out, however, this world isn’t all bad. The demon world’s modernized quite a bit, even setting up its own school system. Sullivan, who really just wanted a grandson to dote on, grants Iruma a second lease on life by enrolling him in the demon school Babyls, where he can get a ‘proper’ education and make real friends… so long as his true identity isn’t revealed.
I gave the last spot to Mairimashita! Iruma-kun, on account of its relative lack of popularity. This anime’s got great comedy, vibrant designs, a memorable cast, and is surprisingly wholesome despite the demon world setting.
It’s frankly absurd, how much good anime there was this season. That’s why I’ve created this section, for those anime that didn’t quite make the list.
One of the more popular shows of the season is Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, in which an AI from the future and a first-of-her-kind songstress robot team up in order to change the course of time and prevent a violent AI uprising. The premise and music are both good, but I’m not a huge fan of the animation, and I’d prefer a stronger musical element.
If the subjects of AI and war interest you, then you might also like 86. It has a thoughtful commentary on the topics of dehumanization and propaganda, and the emotional beats are strong. However, I’m not entirely sold on the more supernatural elements.
The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent (Seijo no Maryoku wa Bannou desu) is an anime that exists, if you prefer love over war. Office worker Sei Takanashi is summoned to another world, cast aside, and decides to study medicine and healing. It’s not a stand-out show in any way, but it dodges most of the common isekai genre pitfalls at least, so it has that going for it.
A man who loves his country returns this season, in Moriarty The Patriot (Yuukoku no Moriarty). One of my picks in Fall 2020, it’s an alternate take on the Sherlock Holmes universe, with a young Professor Moriarty as the protagonist. The first season was definitely better, but this second season still holds some merit (at least it did, back when I first wrote this, but it kinda fell apart towards the end…).
One final mention goes to Zombieland Saga: Revenge, an absurd mash-up between the Japanese idol group trend and the classic horror enemy that is the walking dead. This show should not conceptually work, but it does, and to morbidly hilarious effect.
The TyDe Awards
Best OP: “No! No! Satisfaction” by Da Pump (Mairimashita! Iruma-kun 2nd Season)
There’s a certain manic energy in Iruma-kun‘s OPs that makes you want to bop along with the beat. Even if I try not to, I just can’t help myself. It’s got the flashy visuals to back it up as well, and every relevant character gets their moment in the spotlight. Nothing else even comes close to taking this award… though if I had to pick silver, it would be the chill vibes of Odd Taxi‘s “ODDTAXI”, by Skirt and PUNPEE.
Best ED: “Nai Nai” by ReoNa (Shadows House)
Iruma-kun‘s new ED, “Kokoro Showtime” by Amatsuki, is a pretty good bop as well… but as good as it is, I’ve gotta give this one to the ED of Shadows House. Both go for a spooky vibe and play with lighting effects in their visuals, but the former’s is a comfy sort of spooky, while the latter’s is more unsettling. Its visuals are more dynamic, and I love how it incorporates sound effects into the song, particularly the sound of shattering glass.
Best Animation: Odd Taxi
I like Odd Taxi‘s unique style. It may not be the most visually detailed show of the season, but it’s certainly got some creative flair to it. The characters are modelled based on animals befitting their personalities. Not only does this compliment the themes of human nature and criminality, but it also fits from the show’s narrative perspective, considering Odokawa’s mental state.
Best Sound Design: Fruits Basket
This one came down to Fruits Basket and To Your Eternity. The latter’s first episode wouldn’t have hit nearly as hard as it did without the soundtrack to back it up… but the god-figure/narrator talks too much, at least in my opinion. Fruits Basket, meanwhile, has top-notch sound effects, and it’s better at understanding the power of silence.
Best Story: No Winner
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that nothing’s worthy of this award… it’s quite the opposite problem, actually. The Picks this season all have great stories, each with their own strengths and deeper themes, so I honestly can’t bring myself to narrow it down to just 1 winner.
Best Main Character: Hiroshi Odokawa (Odd Taxi)
Hm… what can I say about this guy? I don’t want to spoil too much… well, for one thing, he provides a unique perspective. How many other shows can claim to have a taxi driver as a protagonist? Odokawa’s not exactly young either, and you can tell just from the way he carries himself that he’s been through a lot. His prickliness is oddly refreshing, and his detachment from wordly affairs is odd as well… there’s clearly more to him than what meets the eye.
Best Supporting Character: Ameri Azazel (Mairimashita! Iruma-kun)
In any anime series with multiple female characters, there will inevitably arise a debate over who is the best. Normally, I don’t care about that kinda thing… but Ameri is absolutely best girl, and no-one can convince me otherwise. She’s intelligent, assertive, strong, attractive, well-rounded, capable, and endearing all at once. If Iruma ends up in a relationship with anyone, it had better be her.