Spring 2021 Anibitez Part 2 is finally here! From Backflip!! to Vivy: Fluorite’s Eye Song, we have a range of staff first impressions from the Spring 2021 anime airing this season for you to enjoy. If you want to check out Part 1, read them here.
Backflip!!: Time to flip the sport into glory!
Backflip!! piqued my interest because I heard a ton of praise about how cool it is, and I’m already in love with it! The anime features junior high-schooler Shotaro Futaba, who enters high school to pursue men’s rhythmic gymnastics after watching a high school rhythmic gymnastics competition. I honestly thought it was interesting how the first episode chose to hit the watcher with the harsh reality of gymnastics: you start with 20 points, and points are deducted rather than added. It was almost like a warning to Shotaro on the hard work and dedication he had to put in if he pursued it.
Beyond the amazing animation of the backflips and gymnastics choreography thanks to input from an actual high school men’s gymnastics team, I really liked the characters’ dynamics. The seniors are the most eclectic bunch I’ve seen. One even wakes up to an alarm and screams, “WANNA FIGHT?!” before falling back asleep. Comedy makes up a core aspect of this anime, but it doesn’t skip any touching moments. Ryoya, the aloof middle school ace, always puts in his full effort despite personal difficulties in coaching Shotaro, and the seniors bond with Shotaro by sharing how they initially got into the sport: to do a backflip effortlessly.
Overall, I’m really enjoying everything about the anime so far, so I hope it doesn’t fall flat and the characters can backflip themselves into glory, just as they wished from the start.
ODDTAXI: A quiet night time drive (no joke here. I just love the show)
ODDTAXI takes place in a world of anthropomorphized animals and follows Odokawa, a 41-year-old walrus taxi driver. As a taxi driver, he talks with passengers from all walks of life, and these conversations all seem to point toward the disappearance of a high school girl.
I don’t think I’ve ever been enamored with a show as quickly as I have been with ODDTAXI. On a technical front, all aspects of the show are high-quality, from voice acting to sound design to art direction and character design. Riho Iida’s soothing performance as Shirakawa and Natsuki Hanae’s measured and dour delivery as Odokawa set the tone of the show along with an atmospheric soundtrack that is the perfect aural wallpaper. The differing line sharpness between the characters and the world they live in draws your attention to where it belongs: the interactions between the cast. But what makes ODDTAXI stand out from the other seasonal shows to me is its atmosphere. I have been completely taken by the late-night city ambiance that seems to permeate throughout every episode.
The world of ODDTAXI is small — just a man (or I guess walrus), his taxi, and the slices of society that have somewhere to be. Some scenes feature Odokawa and a passenger having a conversation, and the viewer just gets to watch and listen like a fly on the wall. That small scope makes every interaction feel intimate, and I hope that it stays that way. I don’t want an explosive action at the end, or a race against time. I just want this window into people’s lives as the world goes by around them.
OsaMake: Romcom Where the Childhood Friend Doesn’t Lose: OsaMake it Stop
I’m a simple man. I see Yoshitsugu Matusoka, Inori Minase, and Ayane Sakura in an anime, and I click.
Osamake tells the story of Sueharu Maru, a high school boy rejected by his classmate and crush, the popular “cool beauty” and perfect-in-every-way Shirokusa Kachi. Devastated, he is urged by his childhood friend, Kuroha Shida, who conveniently has a crush on him, to get revenge for his “first love.”
I don’t think anyone should expect anything revolutionary from this show. The series seems to be aware of the cliches and tropes that make up modern rom-coms, and it’s not trying to be anything different. In fact, it tries so little that it rushes establishing character relationships and motivations. They don’t show or tease character motivations so much as to tell you, which feels very awkward. They gloss over Kuroha’s feelings for Maru, instead of treating them as an important plot point. While Kachi and Maru are straightforward characters with motivations and reactions consistent with their established personalities, Shida tends to act out of character. She’s introduced as flirtatious and sassy, but then she suddenly gets sentimental or flustered for no reason. This lack of consistency makes it difficult for me to connect with her, which is unfortunate as she’s clearly going to be important later.
All that said, the show has its good points, such as great banter between its characters, and I look forward to seeing its development. But make no mistake, this looks to be a perfectly average anime.
Shadows House: A mystery shrouded in soot
The first episode of Shadows House meanders around the elements I was initially excited for based on the promotional materials. Most notably, the key art, promotional video, and the opening and ending songs invoke a mysterious and insidious cover for the denizens of Shadows House. In this mansion, the Shadows are faceless nobility who have a living doll doppelganger that attends to their needs in a master-servant relationship. While the master and servant’s silhouettes are perfect reflections, their personalities are distinct enough that they cannot be simply explained by the omnipresent master-servant relationship. This first episode establishes our setting between the Shadow Kate and her freshly minted living doll servant but presents the world like a snow globe that has settled undisturbed.
The animation in the first episode excelled in the soot and shadow design, and my eyes were constantly drawn to the visual void emitting from Kate. A Shadow’s soot emission is the only way for a shadow to express emotion, but a Shadow releases soot only when it feels negative emotions, which means that the absence of soot only confirms that a Shadow feels positive or neutral, but the specific feeling is unknown. However, this is not always true, and the animation cleverly shows body posture and profile shots to highlight any facial muscle movement that could affect a Shadow’s silhouette, giving us another window into a shadow’s psyche despite their facelessness. This is quite clever and shows an advantage compared to the manga source material.
I am worried about production issues given Studio Cloverworks’ past season issues with Wonder Egg Priority and The Promised Neverland Season 2, so I will probably wait until more episodes are released to watch as a full batch. In the next few weeks, we should have more grasp on the plot and mystery advertised in Shadows House.
By: Nick “Neeko”
The World Ends with You the Animation: Teens stuck in Shibuya
In the Reapers’ Game, only those who trust their partners can survive. Players must complete their missions on time; otherwise, they risk complete elimination from the game. Trapped in the center of Shibuya, Neku and Shiki attempt to complete the missions given to them. While the upbeat Shiki is determined to win the game and return to real life, the gloomy Neku is trying to figure out who he is and how he entered the game. Together, the duo complete missions with other players and try to make it through the initial seven days.
The World Ends With You the Animation is based on the Nintendo DS game from 2007, so the vibrant stylistic character designs, CGI monsters, and pixelations stand out when you watch the anime. If you’ve never played the game before, it may be difficult to understand all the jargon thrown around in the first few episodes, and there’s also no clear reason as to why Neku and Shiki end up in the same spot every day. The pacing is somewhat rushed, and the show leaves you with a ton of questions about how the game works, if Neku will get his memory back, what the heck the Reapers actually do, and more.
Each mission is tackled by the day, and I’m hoping future episodes will be easier to follow. So far, TWEWY the Animation looks like a decent and faithful adaptation of the video game.
Those Snow White Notes: Your Shamisen in April
When Setsu’s grandfather died, he not only lost a family member, but also his teacher and inspiration for the shamisen. Unsatisfied with his “sound,” Setsu impulsively decides to leave his hometown to try and get it back. On his first day in Tokyo, he bumps into Yuna, a rising actress who surprisingly allows Setsu to stay with her temporarily for him to get back up on his feet. Although Setsu’s motivation to move to Tokyo is because of his grandfather’s death, it’s apparent that Setsu is still grieving and hurt. Could the bustling, urbanized city of Tokyo help Setsu get his sound back?
Despite Setsu’s passion and talent, he’s not interested in shamisen competitions as he is simply drawn to the sounds and playing the instrument to express himself. So far, the compositions and collaborations that Setsu plays have totally blown me away. I’m not familiar with traditional Japanese music in general, but I find myself drawn to the musical arrangements in each episode. Who knew that vocals could accompany shamisen music? The first few episodes highlight alluring performances that make one want to stop to just listen and appreciate the music. The intensity of the plucked strings, resonating tone, and story behind each piece are what make the anime special. If the performances continue to keep up the quality, Those Snow White Notes is a must-watch for its passionate and moving performances in Setsu’s journey of rediscovering his music.
To Your Eternity: To the eternity that we see and beyond
I watched To Your Eternity because the manga is by Yoshitoki Ōima, the creator of the highly acclaimed series A Silent Voice, so I had high expectations for To Your Eternity. The anime is about an immortal who descends onto earth via alien means, and this immortal gradually learns about life, behaviors, and norms that govern this world.
I’ve heard many people talk about how touching the first episode was because of the bond the white-haired boy and the wolf (who was really the immortal in disguise) shared. Not knowing the synopsis, I hoped this would be a journey about the boy and the immortal-in-disguise-as-a-wolf, but alas it doesn’t seem so. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed since I enjoyed the bond and raw emotion shared between the two. The following episode gave more context on what this “immortal” was and introduced more characters, but I was quite lost at the end. Why did the “immortal” come to this world? What did they want to achieve? I was left with more questions than answers after watching two episodes, but I did enjoy the more rustic character designs and the backgrounds which fit well with the plotline of world exploration.
It seems like there is substantial worldbuilding to be done before I can find the answers to my questions. I’m hoping that the path ahead becomes clearer so that we won’t be wandering for eternity trying to find answers.
Tokyo Revengers: What happens when you peaked in middle school
Tokyo Revengers was one of my most anticipated shows this season based on its manga following, but can it hold up to expectations? The resigned Takemichi Hanagaki is given the world’s worst nostalgia trip as he is reminded of his long-forgotten middle school girlfriend, Hinata Tachibana, with the news that she has been murdered by the Tokyo Maji Gang. Since they had been long separated after graduating middle school, Takemichi’s life is at its lowest, and the beacon of any happy memory has now been extinguished. With the help of Train-kun, Takemichi is isekai’d back to his middle school days, and he’s determined to prevent the tragedy of Hinata’s death.
While the initial premise may seem extremely similar to another popular time travel show, Tokyo Revengers distinguishes itself with its delinquent setting. His initial interactions with his old gang amused me and reminded me of the slapstick delinquent cliches, but I was even more interested in how the show shattered these illusions when the Tokyo Manji Gang gives Takemichi a remedial course straight from the school of hard knocks.
Another strong part of this episode was Hinata’s brief appearance. Her initial demeanor showed us that she knows that Takemichi and his friends are posers who are way out of their element, but her warm, firm concern was a bittersweet remembrance of the only sources of joy of Takemichi’s life. Overall, I look forward to seeing the rest of Takemichi’s band of misfits as well as their character molds because Tokyo Revengers has left a lot of room to grow.
By: Nick “Neeko”
Vivy: Fluorite’s Eye Song: Off to a great start in preventing catastrophe
First of all, I really like the premise of this original anime. It discusses a pertinent issue facing the world today: AI and humans. The main character, Vivy, is the first autonomous AI in the anime’s world, designed to bring people joy through her singing. However, 100 years later, AI and humans are engaged in an all-out war. An AI named Matsumoto aims to prevent this war by changing certain points of history — with Vivy’s help, whether she wants to or not. This brings AI ethics to mind and begs the question: can humans and AI really co-exist?
Vivy strongly reminds me of Violet from Violet Evergarden because of her stiff expressions and concern for humans. Her voice and eye design display that stiffness well. While the details are visually stunning, you can tell that she still looks hollow inside, devoid of emotions. The amazing visuals don’t stop at Vivy’s eyes though. It extends to the character designs, backgrounds, and art too. You can actually see the separate strands of hair when Vivy moves.
Admittedly, I initially got annoyed at Matsumoto, the person roping her into preventing the war between AI and humans, in the first two episodes. He’s an extremely talkative and bossy AI but eventually gets better at communicating and helping Vivy in subsequent episodes.
Overall, I think Vivy has the potential to be thought-provoking. I hope Vivy learns about what “putting her heart” into something means and that she becomes happy, simply because I think she deserves it. Can humans and AI coexist? Perhaps, we can.
Zombie Land Saga: Revenge: Can’t keep a fun show down… in the ground (Like a zombie. Get it? :fingerguns:)
Zombie Land Saga is back! It’s been three years since the first season aired, and I still love it. The first episode of this sequel series takes place a year after the events of the previous season. After some quick exposition about a disastrous concert that bankrupted them, the girls of Franchouchou have to work their way back to idol stardom!
Since returning viewers have already been introduced to the main characters, it looks like Zombie Land Saga: Revenge will spend more time developing backstories and worldbuilding. While the bombastic, devil-may-care attitude toward explaining things was part of the first season’s charm, I am looking forward to learning more about the characters and setting that I have come to love.
The voice cast continues to be amazing, and seeing Mamoru Miyano’s performance as sad Koutarou is a fun new aspect to the character that helps signal the new direction the show might be heading in.
Since this is a sequel, the intended audience is the folks who watched and enjoyed the first season. So, as far as recommendations go, I have two questions:
1. Did you watch Zombie Land Saga?
2. Did you like Zombie Land Saga?
If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, then you should definitely watch Zombie Land Saga Revenge. If you haven’t watched Zombie Land Saga, check out the AniBitez from when it first aired.
That is all for this Spring 2021! Check out Spring 2021 Part 1 here.