Rapid Reviews – Summer 2021 Anime

Hi! It’s me, Tyler D. It’s about time to cover this year’s Summer anime line-up, isn’t it? While not as exciting as the Spring and Winter seasons before it, there were still a few interesting shows worth noting.

I’ve done a bit of thinking… I’m going to retire the My Five Picks format, effective immediately. My earlier post about the Fringe Festival line-up made me realize that M5P’s format is too restrictive, and with the two series filling similar roles, it just doesn’t make sense to have them both.

From now on, my coverage of seasonal anime will fall under the Rapid Reviews name instead. Like before, I’m only going to cover shows that I intend to finish, but now I’m also assigning rankings along with the highlights of each show. With that out of the way, let’s hop right into it!

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! X
Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta… X

How about we start things off with the second season of My Next Life as a Villainess? Yeah, sure, that works. A high-school girl is reincarnated into the world of Fortune Lover, a dating simulator… but as Catarina Claes, the game’s central villain.

Knowing that every path will lead either to her character’s banishment or death, she resolves to change her fate. In her sheer obliviousness, however, she accidentally makes everyone around her fall in love with her. At this point in the story, she’s run out of game script to follow, and is kinda just winging it.

This was one of my most-anticipated shows of the season, and I would put the 1st season as Rank IV… but sadly, this season gets a downgrade for its weaker story. Sora really shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven, considering what he nearly did to Catarina, and her denseness (though endearing) is over-stretching its welcome.

The black hole harem queen returns.
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

The Aquatope on White Sand
Shiroi Suna no Aquatope

This next anime is set around an aquarium that’s struggling to stay afloat (ba-dum-tss). High-schooler Kukuru Misakino, the director’s grand-daughter, takes on the helm as a last-ditch effort to save the beloved facility from closing.

Enter Fuka Miyazawa, an idol who couldn’t survive the cut-throat industry. Escaping her problems on a flight to Okinawa, she makes an impromptu visit to Gama Gama Aquarium, and is inspired by an odd vision to join their under-staffed crew. Could this self-reflecting visitor be the key to keeping the place open?

In terms of animation quality, Aquatope‘s easily the best-looking show here. Everything just looks so good, from the animal and character designs to the landscapes and lighting. The ED (Tsukiumi no Yurikago by Mia REGINA) has some nice mystical vibes to it as well. As my favorite of the season, it gets the coveted Rank IV.

“The two girls met in the ruins of damaged dream…” what does that even mean?
Rank IV – Quality Work

Sonny Boy
Sonny Boy

Sonny Boy… how do I even begin to describe this show? Take a retro anime aesthetic, combine it with the surrealism of Salvador Dali, the magic of Doctor Strange, and the narrative themes of Lord of the Flies… and you kinda come close? I dunno.

So a group of high-school students find themselves (and their school) enveloped within a black void, where space bends easily and time has lost all meaning. Also, some students develop reality-altering powers, and the school starts to hop between dimensions?

Faced with internal strife and unconventional rules of reality, the group must work together to figure out what’s going on, so they may hopefully return home to their own dimension. The plot at times is difficult to follow (likely by design), and the soundtrack varies from jarringly quiet to downright nonsensical… but it’s hard not to be drawn into such an odd premise.

Salvador Dali plus Doctor Strange plus Dadaism equals ???
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
Genjitsu Shugi Yuusha no Oukoku Saikenki

In another world, the monarchist Elfrieden Kingdom has fallen upon hard times as a result of famine and demon invasions. In dire straits, they summon a ‘hero’ from Earth to offer as tribute to a larger nation.

Enter Kazuya Souma, a young Japanese worker. Having no combat experience, he obviously isn’t happy with this arrangement, and so he instead offers to help sort out their financial woes. One thing leads to another, he’s suddenly crowned as the nation’s king, and so he uses his newfound powers to rebuild the kingdom.

I do like the fresh take on the oversaturated isekai genre. Most fantasy shows don’t focus on bureaucracy, and for good reason, but Realist Hero pulls it off fairly well. Kazuya gets magic, sure, but it’s secondary to his powers of wit and observation. That being said, the fanservice is a bit much at times, and I would’ve liked more conflict/crisis scenarios.

Real talk: You may not like a politician, but you should remember that they’re human too.
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2 Part 2
Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken 2nd Season Part 2

Some guy in Japan gets stabbed, dies, and reincarnates in another world as (go figure) a slime monster. He meets and befriends a super-powerful dragon named Veldora, gets named Rimuru Tempest, and absorbs his new buddy into his body to try and get rid of his curse (Rimuru’s body absorbs magic btw).

With this newfound boost in power, he becomes revered, and a non-discriminatory nation of monsters is founded under his leadership. At this point in the story, a long-standing feud is about to be settled.

I get this may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m just gonna say it: I don’t like fanservice. I can tolerate it somewhat, but here it’s just excessive. I don’t want intimate imagery shoved in my face every episode. I’d rank it lower for this, but Slime‘s world-building and music are both top-notch, so anything less than Rank III wouldn’t really be fair.

Veldora best boy fite me
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

Tsukimichi -Moonlit Fantasy-
Tsuki ga Michibiku Isekai Douchuu

A divine contract yoinks the unwitting Makoto Misumi into another world (jeez, this is getting ridiculous). However, he’s exceptionally ugly by this world’s beauty standards, so he’s yeeted off into distant uncharted lands by a vain goddess.

Fortunately for him, he’s not left defenseless. He awakens latent superhuman abilities, and he’s gifted the pity power of speech auto-translation (except it only works with non-humans). Abandoned and alone, Makoto gains unexpected allies, becomes revered for his strength, and founds a non-discriminatory city of monsters (hey, wait a minute, this sounds awfully familiar…).

This show’s not exactly the most original thing here, but it’s at least self-aware, and it sets itself apart decently. I like the way it integrates Japanese history and mythology. The OP song, Gamble by syudou, is also a certified banger. However, the fanservice critique applies here as well, and Tsukimichi has nothing strong enough to excuse these annoyances.

Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Rank II – Needs Improvement

Spirit Chronicles
Seirei Gensouki

Young man dies in traffic, gets strong powers in another world, yada yada. You get the point. Of the shows I didn’t drop, guess which one I liked the least? If you guessed Spirit Chronicles, congratulations, you win.

There is one big twist in the otherwise generic set-up: he doesn’t get his own body. Rather, his memories transfer to the body of Rio, a young boy in the slums. I like the idea in concept, but its execution isn’t great… like c’mon, two minds sharing the same body? Surely there would’ve been more resistance, at least on Rio’s part. I question why this even needs to be an isekai, that’s how little Haruto matters here.

The show has fairly good animation, I’ll give it that, and the ED (Elder flower by Aguri Onishi) is above average… but that alone’s not enough to save it from the dubious Rank I.

Everything about Haruto/Rio just makes me think he’s a Discount Kirito: the name resemblance, the black cloak/hair… they even have the same voice actor.
Rank I – Start From Scratch

The Case Study of Vanitas
Vanitas no Karte

Vanitas, a vampire born under a blue moon, is shunned by his own kind. He’ll one day use his cursed grimoire to exact vengeance upon them all… at least, that’s what the legends say.

Noé Archiviste, a vampire in search of this book, is rescued by an odd doctor who proclaims himself to be Vanitas, a disciple of that same vampire of yore. Though he is but a mere human, he seeks to cure vampires of a mental corruption that’s been going around lately, and Noé decides to accompany him on this quest.

The OP (Sora to Utsuro by sasanomaly) has a nice electro-swing vibe to it. Between the fight choreography, the supernatural powers, and the Parisian setting, this anime’s earned a lot of style points as well. However, I wish it would do more with the steampunk element, and the traditional vampirism scenes feel a bit off pacing-wise.

ayy steampunk vampires in Paris
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

Fena: Pirate Princess
Kaizoku Oujo

Last but not least is the story of Fena Houtman, a young woman orphaned on a remote island. Try as she might, she can’t seem to escape, and has had to turn to increasingly desperate measures to survive.

Just as she’s about to be given off to the hands of a corrupt soldier, she’s rescued by old & new allies, and rediscovers her identity as the last surviving member of a noble family. To the ends of completing her father’s final mission and forging a new path forward, she takes to the high seas and becomes (you guessed it) a pirate.

This show’s got a likeable empowered protagonist, good comedic timing, and beautiful town designs. Its anachronisms, however, are very distracting. You’ve got samurai… becoming pirates… in a colonial setting… on a submarine? I get it’s supposed to be alternate history, but you’re really stretching the suspension of disbelief with that one, chief.

Soon may the Wellerman come to bring us sugar and tea and rum
Rank III – Imperfectly Balanced

Those are the shows I’ve been watching this season. Due to my current work situation, I’m not fully caught up on them all… but if anything changes dramatically enough to shift the rankings, I’ll make a post about it. Let’s leave this off with a few of the Fall shows that’ve caught my eye.

The big-ticket show I’m most interested in is Komi Can’t Communicate. I know the pain of being unable to speak your true feelings, and from what I’ve read of the manga, it looks promising.

As for sequels, 86 is getting its continuation this season. I’m not sure which direction the story is gonna go, but as long as it doesn’t veer too wildly off-course, it should be good.

Of the season’s fantasy shows, The Faraway Paladin looks the most promising. The premise of three undead parental guardians is a unique set-up, and the animation style appears to be good.

This season gave us vampires in Paris… but what about vampires in space? Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu promises the story of an astronaut vampire caught in the middle of an alternate-history space race. Color me intrigued.

One other thing I’m curious about is Tesla Note. Not because I think it’ll be good… quite the opposite: depending on how its story is written, it has the potential to be a dumpster fire à la Ex-Arm style.