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Fall 2021 Anime Staff Viewer’s Guide

It’s time to fall into some new shows and we’re here to help point you towards which rabbit holes to do so.

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The leaves are changing are so is this season’s anime. It’s time to fall into some new shows and we’re here to help point you towards which rabbit holes to do so. (List in no particular order)

takt op.Destiny

takt op Destiny
Image: Crunchyroll

Studio: Madhouse & MAPPA
Director: Yuuki Itou
Main Voice Actors: Shion Wakayama (Cosette), Kouki Uchiyama (Takt), Kaede Hondo (Anna)

People often think the mark of good story-telling is being able to effectively explain all the mechanics of its world, and that’s certainly true for the most part. Sometimes, however, it’s fine to say “Screw it” and just play by the rule of cool. takt op.Destiny is a show that honestly shouldn’t work. Its premise of the world being overrun by music despising aliens is taken far more seriously than it should be. By not even bothering to explain various plot holes and inconsistencies, though, it manages to actually funnel your attention on the smaller scale, more interesting road-trip narrative. It also lets you reconcile the fact that orchestral-powered magical girls are fending off hordes of alien gorillas in strikingly well-rendered backdrops and over-the-top fight sequences.

The core cast of characters is also one of the most immediately likable to be seen in recent anime. While their archetypes are nothing groundbreaking, their interactions with each other are comical and light-hearted, or heartfelt and emotional when they need to be. You become grounded and invested in their journey despite how nonsensical said journey is if you stop and think about it. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Highly recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll


Mieruko-chan 

Image: Funimation

Studio: Passione
Director: Yuuki Ogawa
Main Voice Actors: Sora Amamiya (Miko)

Mieruko-chan is the horror anime for horror haters. It’s just creepy enough to keep viewers on edge without being outright scary or gruesome. Instead, Mieruko-chan leans into what Passione was so masterful at conveying in Ishuzoku Reviewers: comedy and fanservice.

Miko is a teenage girl who one day becomes aware that she can see horrific spirits that occupy the world alongside the living. These spirits are largely invisible to the human eye, and though they can interact with inanimate objects, they don’t seem to be able to interact with the living. That doesn’t make them any less terrifying for Miko, however, who essentially spends her days in a living nightmare surrounded by ghouls who are constantly terrorizing her.

Seeing Miko react and struggle to ignore the ghastly spirits around her and her best friend Hana is thrilling, at least before it becomes clear that they’re never in any physical danger. The sheer design and variety of spirits are quite well done, and it’s always interesting to see what they’re up to in any given episode. Despite the shock value and great comedic timing Mieruko-chan has going for it, however, it’s at its best when it taps into Miko’s ability to understand the dead and help others. Whether it further capitalizes on these moments later in the season remains to be seen. (By Brent Middleton)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Funimation


Muv-Luv Alternative

Muv luv alternative
Image: Funimation

Studio: Yumeta Company and Graphinica
Director: Yukio Nishimoto
Main Voice Actors: Kouichi Kamiki (Takeru),Karin Nanami (Meiya), Tomori Kusunoki (Sumika)

Muv-Luv Alternative has a surprisingly prolific history. Starting in 2003 as a visual novel, the series has branched off into numerous mangas, games, and a couple anime. This is the second anime adaption (the first came out in 2012 and is a spin-off) and, honestly, I do not understand how it has retained any popularity. The show is by no means horrible, but it’s bland, which is kind of even worse, since it’s fun to mock bad things.

Muv-Luv is a generic mech-show that attempts to set itself apart with a time travel/alternate universe theme. The protagonist, Takeru, sees visions of himself in another timeline where humanity falls to an evil alien force that has invaded earth. Desiring to prevent annihilation, he joins the mech piloting military and graces them with his knowledge. It’s not exactly a novel idea and feels like a cheap narrative device whereby the series can begin with a brutal first episode without any real stakes. That said, it is not terrible by any means. The action is serviceable (and surprisingly gory), the characters are not grating, if uninteresting, and the aliens are various and explode nicely. The show just does nothing unique, creative, or with verve. Even the alien’s name is lame: BETA (Beings of Extra-Terrestrial Origin and Adversaries of the Human Race). Muv-Luv Alternative has nothing to offer. (By Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Not Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll


Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Mushoku Tensei Jobless Reincarnation
Image: Funimation

Studio: Studio Bind
Director: Manabu Okamoto
Main Voice Actors: Yumi Uchiyama (Rudeus), Ai Kakuma (Eris)

I don’t remember the last time I’ve ever been so conflicted with a show. Mushoku Tensei continues to exhibit fantastic world and character building, stellar fight choreography that utilizes fluid movements rather than flashy effects, and a true sense of adventure and wonder. Alas, our protagonist, one Mr. Rudeus Greyrat, is scum. Pure, unadulterated scum. His remarks and actions — both internally and out loud — towards his underaged companion are sexual harassment at best and straight-up pedophilic at worst. There has yet to be a single episode that hasn’t made me wince and question if such a thing was really necessary.

But everything else about the show is so amazing! I still want to find out more about the world; I still want all its characters to grow and be happy (except maybe Rudy); and I still want to see what spectacle it treats me to next! I can’t recommend Mushoku Tensei to someone in good conscience, but I can write these thoughts and let you draw your own conclusions. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Funimation


86 Part 2

86 EIGHTY SIX
Image: Crunchyroll

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Toshimasa Ishii
Main Voice Actors: Shōya Chiba (Shinei), Ikumi Hasegawa (Milizé), Misaki Kuno (Frederica)

Over the course of its first cour, 86 gradually emerged as one of that season’s best shows, defying the expectations created by its generic beginning. The characters have grown from mech-show stereotypes into actual people and the world is unique and fascinating. The enemy AI known as legion assimilates the consciousnesses of those it defeats and is one the years most sinister villains with the ambiguous identity of its army (Are they actually their human counterparts or are they mere facsimiles?) complimenting the series’ gray morality beautifully: everyone no matter how well-intentioned, becomes tainted by survival’s need for violence.

The second cour builds on this complex morality. Now under the protection of the Federacy (the former empire that created the legion), the 86 enter a peaceful society only to find themselves longing for the horror of war. They eventually get their wish and the series is currently in the thralls of an epic confrontation. Even amidst the thrilling action, though, the series never forgets its heart or the fact that these characters are so twisted by their world’s brutality, peace is more terrifying than death. It’s a compelling, surprisingly thoughtful series that aches with the soulful longing of a guilty conscience. If you haven’t checked this show out, you should rectify that immediately. (By Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll


Platinum End

Image: Crunchyroll

Studio: Signal.MD
Director: Kazuchika Kise
Main Voice Actors: Miyu Irino (Mirai), Yui Ogura (Nasse), Mao Ichimichi (Saki)

This is a death game story that doesn’t really need to be a death game. Platinum End has ten candidates, each sponsored by their respective angel, selected to determine who who will become the next god. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the main antagonist holds such an overwhelming advantage over all the other candidates that it’s hard to see any believable way of him not winning the whole thing. It makes it feel like you’re just going through the paces, waiting for whatever inevitable plot twist will happen that changes the state of play.

On the other hand, our protagonist, Mirai, showed promise at the start of the series to be able to break the mold, but quickly reverted to the usual archetype of pure hearted saint that doesnt want to hurt even the most despicable of people. That’s not to say that kind of character can’t be interesting, but Mirai plays it so by the books as to be plain boring. Platinum End has had moments of genuine tension and opportunities to shake things up, but so far it’s ignored all of them. The result is a death game that just feels like a one-sided slaughter. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Crunchyroll & Funimation


My Senpai is Annoying

My senpai is annoying
Image: Funimation

Studio: Doga Kobo
Director: Ryouta Itou
Main Voice Actor(s): Tomori Kusunoki (Futaba), Shunsuke Takeuchi (Takeda)

It’s shocking just how infectious My Senpai is Annoying is. Like an unassuming yet catchy pop song, it wasn’t long before I found myself singing along—or, in this case, fawning over the absolutely adorable moments between the cast. The setup is simple: Futaba Igarashi is in her second year of working at a trading company, and she’s determined to prove to everyone (including her doting senpai Harumi Takeda) that she’s a capable saleswoman and adult despite her childlike appearance. Somewhere along the line she ends up falling for Takeda, and the season thus far has gradually unfolded into a lighthearted “will they, won’t they” dynamic between the flustered Futaba and oblivious Takeda.

For as much as Doga Kobo relies on the cuteness of Futaba to pull viewers in, the real draw to My Senpai is Annoying is its earnestness and cloyingly sweet, feel-good tone. Seeing everyone in the office support Futaba in her romantic endeavors is nothing short of heartwarming, while the good-natured teasing from her childhood friend Natsumi offers plenty of laughs and comfort. The burgeoning side romance between a couple other employees is arguably even better because of its relatability and refreshing power dynamic. If you’re looking for a heartfelt rom-com where it’s genuinely easy to root for multiple couples to get together, look no further. (By Brent Middleton)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation


Puraore! ~Pride of Orange~

Pride of Orange
Image: Funimation

Studio: C2C
Director: Takefumi Anzai
Main Voice Actor(s): Riku Masuda (Manaka), Satomi Hongou (Yuu), Yurika Moriyama (Kaoruko), Saika Kitamori (Riko), Mau Sagara (Ayaka), Asuka Shioiri (Naomi)

Oh, Pride of Orange. What a… confused show you are. I can only imagine what ice hockey fans feel like knowing this is anime’s first representation of the sport. You want to focus on middle to high school girls playing? Ok, strange but fine. You want character designs lifted straight out of Love Live? Umm, sure I guess. You want this to BE Love Live?! Excuse me?

Pride of Orange is a lot of things and your mileage will vary depending on how much you care about hockey and/or idol shows. Know that the idol aspect is 100% hamfisted into the narrative and has no place being there. There haven’t been many songs yet and what we have had are pretty forgettable . Meanwhile, the hockey is extremely well animated but the lack of any explanation for what makes for good hockey — shown or told — leaves behind a distinct lack of passion for the sport. So that begs the question. Just who is this show for? I honestly couldn’t tell you. It’s not bad, but it’s far from good. If the combination of idols and hockey makes you curious it might be worth checking out, otherwise it’s not worth seeking out. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Funimation


Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

Image: Funimation

Studio: Arvo Animation
Director: Akitoshi Yokoyama
Main Voice Actors: Megumi Hayashibara (Irina), Kōki Uchiyama (Lev)

At a glance, an anime about a Soviet-esque state sending a vampire into space should be terrible but it’s not. In fact, despite some rough edges, Irina is a sweet series with tremendous heart.

Irina avoids many of the expected pitfalls by establishing that in its world vampires are more of a repressed ethnic minority rather than supernatural creatures. Irina and her people are clearly an intended metaphor for Eastern European populations oppressed by the Soviet regime, and it works well; it keeps the human suffering in mind while adding a slightly fantastical spin to ground the context to the series’ more light-hearted tone.

The show truly shines when it focuses on the interaction between Irina and Lev, her mentor and coach. Lev doesn’t feel at home in his country. Wary of dogmatic nationalism, he doesn’t care about the UZSR and, unlike those around him, he sees Irina as a person rather than an object to test new rocket ships. Irina is the only person Lev knows who loves space like he does, motivated by a desire to explore rather than military might. Their bonding over this shared passion is sincere and makes the show.

Irina stumbles with some generic characterizations. Most of the side characters feel like cardboard cutouts rather than people, and Lev can feel too modern at times for someone living in such a repressive state, but the emotion in the show is real and moving. (By Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Funimation


The Heike Story

the Heike Story
Image: Funimation

Studio: Science SARU
Director: Naoko Yamada
Main Voice Actors: Aoi Yuuki (Biwa), Takahiro Sakura (Shigemori), Saori Hayami (Tokuko)

Masaaki Yuasa? Who’s that? Science SARU sure doesn’t need him if they’re capable of still putting out a gem like The Heike Story

This anime takes an old Japanese tale that dates back to the 1300’s and adapts it to a new medium. The Heike Story details the fall of the Heike clan in 12th century Japan through a striking art style reminiscent of ukiyo-e paintings, but it does ask a lot of its viewer. The story moves along at a brisk pace, never dwelling on any single plot beat longer than absolutely necessary; the artstyle, while unique, makes many characters look similar; and feudal Japanese names make it even harder to keep track of who’s who. 

Despite all that, though, Science SARU does a remarkable job of focusing your attention where it needs to be. Numerous plot threads are being pulled and tugged at any given time and the story excellently navigates you through them. You still have to be actively paying attention and following along but make no mistake, this is meticulous story-telling at its best. Those who put in the effort are rewarded with a tale of war and family that’s equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Highly recommended

Watch on Funimation


Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside

Image: Funimation

Studio: Studio Flad, Wolfsbane
Director: Makoto Hoshino
Main Voice Actors: Kanon Takao (Rit), Ryouta Suzuki (Red)

Sometimes a concept is far and away more compelling than its execution. That’s the case for Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside. The title says it all: once part of the hero’s party, Gideon is one day told that he’s not contributing enough and is in fact a liability because of his weak “blessing” — special powers that everyone is born with. Resigned to his fate, Gideon travels to the countryside, changes his name to Red, and starts a new life as a humble apothecary.

Red is likable and capable, and the way that he aides the villagers while making the most of the skills he does have is fun to watch. However, the show’s strong focus on the incredibly awkward romance between Red and Rit — a princess he met during his adventuring days — ruins the potential. Her childlike falling over Red is jarring from the moment she’s introduced, especially since no romantic history between the two is detailed until halfway through the season. Instead of a serious romantic interest, she comes across as an excuse to include eye candy and the occasional genuinely cute moment.

As a slice of life anime Banished From the Hero’s Party had great promise, but as a haphazard romance I’m just left shrugging my shoulders. (By Brent Middleton)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Funimation


Blue Period

Blue Period
Image: Netflix

Studio: Seven Arcs
Director: Koji Masunari
Main Voice Actors: Hiromu Mineta (Yatora), Yumiri Hanamori (Yuka), Daiki Yamashita (Yotasuke), Kengo Kawanishi (Haruka), Yume Miyamoto (Maki)

It’s been a long time since I’ve resonated with an anime series so directly. Blue Period’s depiction of a young man falling in love with art is so relatable as someone who also recently picked up the paintbrush during the lockdowns. Yaguchi’s journey into the world of art clearly comes from a place of deep understanding for the activity that is equal parts irrational feelings and logical trends and patterns. 

Blue Period takes a holistic approach to showing you both aspects of art you may learn in a classroom — such as proper composition and use of negative space — as well as aspects that just sort of happen along the way — such as how you inherently begin to view the world differently. Most importantly, it demonstrates through the breath of its characters and experiences that there is no one “correct” way of learning art, and that emotions such as anxiety, frustration, and sometimes even anger are natural things to feel along the way. No matter where you are in your art journey that has no end, you’ll find a character in Blue Period you can sympathize with. Even if you aren’t an artist, Blue Period is such an earnest peek into art you’ll still find yourself enraptured. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Netflix


Komi Cannot Communicate

Komi Cant Communicate
Image: Netflix

Studio: OLM
Director: Ayumu Watanabe and Kazuki Kawagoe
Main Voice Actors: Aoi Koga (Komi), Gakuto Kajiwara (Tadano), Rie Murakawa (Najimi)

I feel conflicted about Komi. While it is fun, it is also pathological and objectifying.

As the title suggests, Komi is a girl who has trouble communicating. Gorgeous and sinuous, Komi bewitches everyone around her, meaning most people are too anxious to talk to her which only compounds her anxiety. It’s a solid premise for a character but there’s a problem: she is not the main character. Tadano is the star of the series, a lonely boy who, by chance, discovers Komi’s plight and becomes her primary means for human connection. Tadano helps Komi meet people and their journey to find friends drives the show. This set-up, like many anime, is a teenage boy’s dream come to life but what makes it so uncomfortable is how dependent Komi is on Tadano. Gradually, she becomes more confident and approaches people on her own but he is still always present, watching her or giving her pointers, like an over-protective parent. Adding to the problem is her lack of personality: she is only shy and hot; that’s it.

That all said, the show is charming. The writing is clever, Komi’s interactions with others can be delightful with her bumbling about (her derp face is adorable), and it does have a sweet tone. If she continues to grow and actually matures into a real character, other than an object of fantasy, the show could be a winner. (By Nicholas Straub)

(As a side-note there has been some controversy about the series subtitles on Netflix with certain things, like signs that give insight into character’s motivations, not being translated. It’s isn’t really a problem because it doesn’t happen often and when it does, it’s easy to gather what’s being said since the content is very simple and obvious).

Rating: Wait-and-see

Watch on Netflix


The Faraway Paladin

Image: Crunchyroll

Studio: Children’s Playground Entertainment
Director: Yuu Nobuta
Main Voice Actors: Maki Kawase (Will), Yui Horie (Mary), Katsuyuki Konishi (Blood), Nobuo Tobita (Gus), Aumu Murase (Menel)

The Faraway Paladin is a show that takes its time, much like the progression of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns it takes inspiration from. It has spent the vast majority of its air time thus far building up its reincarnated protagonist’s — Will’s — personality and the world’s lore within a very confined space. The decision to take such an intimate approach means that we now have a very deep understanding of Will’s ideals and convictions, his alignment so to speak if we were to borrow D&D terms, but it also means we’ve spent a large part of the story not really knowing what the story is.

The Faraway Paladin has done an excellent job of building its world and magic systems off-screen but now that Will is finally setting off on his grand journey into this high fantasy world, we’ll have to see if all that build-up has meaningful implications or if it fades into the background as excessive exposition. (By Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Recommended

Watchon Crunchyroll


Ranking of Kings

Ranking of Kings
Image: Funimation

Studio: Wit Studio
Director: Yōsuke Hatt and Makoto Fuchigami
Main Voice Actor(s): Minami Hinata (Bojji), Ayumu Murase (Kage), Yuki Kaji (Daida), Takuya Eguchi (Domas)

Ranking of Kings is awesome, but that’s not really surprising; it is Wit Studio, after all.

The series follows the exploits of a deaf prince named Bojji. Brilliant, crafty, and caring he is an underdog only in the sense that society deems him so. Because of his assumed shortcomings, Bojji is denied his rightful place on the throne and sets out on a quest to prove himself accompanied by Kage, a member of the eradicated shadow clan and fellow outcast who sees the prince as not just another lost soul but a hero in the making. He believes in the noble youth and sees that life may be worthwhile if such people exist. However, despite the uplifting friendship and storybook aesthetics, the narrative that unfolds is complex and brutal; it’s a dark tale that wrestles with complex themes and asks difficult questions about the nature of power and what it means to rule.

Ranking of Kings may seem like a sweet children’s tale at first but it is far deeper. Coupled with Wit’s peerless presentation, Ranking of Kings story feels like a classic fairy tale, albeit a grim one, brought spectacularly to life. Watching it you cannot help but feel Kage’s sentiment. Maybe the world ain’t so bad; Wit is in it after all. (By Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Velans

    November 17, 2021 at 10:24 am

    The Heike Story, The Faraway Paladin, Platinum End and Mushoku Tensei added to my MAL :). I will finish “Dances with the Dragons” from 2018 and probably start with Heike Story :). The guide on Autumn helped me choose, and I can see a lot of interesting titles :).

    • Matthew Ponthier

      November 21, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Awesome, glad to hear it! We put one of these lists out every season so you can always come back to get more recommendations 🙂 Hope you enjoy your new shows!

      • Velans

        November 22, 2021 at 10:28 am

        Fall anime season has a lot of series that may be of interest. I will start with the most interesting series and check how it goes with the others ;). This weekend I wanted to finish an earlier anime and start “The Heike Story”, but in the middle of final EP I fell asleep :D.

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