A competitive Spring season has passed, and the sweltering sun is now shining down on us! With the Summer season featuring eye-catching aesthetics from anime like The Aquatope on White Sand and intriguing mysteries from anime like The Case Study of Vanitas, you might find it hard to figure out what anime to watch when you’re trying to beat the heat.
Here’s Part 1 of the staff’s impressions of Summer 2021 anime!
Girlfriend, Girlfriend: A good kind of bad
Naoya is a high schooler who has just begun dating his childhood friend Saki. Despite having pestered Saki to date him since elementary school, a confession from the cute and earnest Nagisa quickly leads to Naoya deciding to two-time Saki — albeit only if Saki gives her permission. Saki refuses his pleading at first, but she eventually gives in to a three-way relationship that sees the trio living at Naoya’s house.
I hesitate to call Girlfriend, Girlfriend’s trio a throuple — while Saki shows signs of attraction to Nagisa, the relationship is mainly a result of pressure from Naoya and, to a lesser extent, Nagisa. Both Naoya and Nagisa deserve criticism, but Naoya, who already grates with his obnoxiously loud and overdramatic nature, is the target of most of my ire for his abrupt and selfish desire to also date Nagisa because of her cute looks.
Thankfully, Girlfriend, Girlfriend is a comedy — one that’s based on a manga by Aho Girl’s author — and so while I often despaired at the plot developments, I also spent half of the premiere chuckling to the point of tears. I absolutely dislike Naoya as a person and was delighted when Saki punches him, but I also couldn’t help laughing when Naoya brazenly spouts nonsense like, “I’ll definitely show you the day when you’re glad you allowed me to two-time you!” The second episode is less adept at creating laughs, but I still think that Girlfriend, Girlfriend has the potential to be a bizarre but entertaining watch.
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: Saving a kingdom with the power of economics
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom follows the seemingly uninteresting eighteen-year-old Kazuya Souma whose parents have long passed, with his grandfather being the most recent to follow. Souma’s mundane life is then quickly interrupted when he is summoned to the Elfrieden kingdom, which is in dire need of financial management. He does such a good job at helping that he’s quickly promoted from hero to king. He achieved this by selling off very specific treasures that hold no historical significance to the kingdom, which was a simple yet brilliant way of resolving the kingdom’s more pressing financial issue, and is why I like him as a protagonist so far. The way he uses pure logic to assess and suppress his problems, monetary or otherwise, is a very desirable trait.
As a realist myself, I tend to be more drawn to characters who use their skills in deduction rather than sheer idealism seen with most anime protagonists. Souma may not look like a hero, but he certainly is one. Not one with broken godly powers or even a smartphone but one of sheer calculation and wit. We’re shown this in the second episode when he uses his new found magical abilities to do paperwork more efficiently, which I found funny as it speaks a lot about his character.
On the other hand, I find the anime’s world-building to be a bit lackluster since it copies the same isekai tropes we see every season. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing how the anime progresses this season.
Kageki Shoujo!!: Let the curtain rise on this story!
Kageki Shoujo!!’s premise interested me because it drew striking parallels to the real-life troupe Takarazuka Revue, so the obvious references (and performances!) within the first minute got me hooked.
Our main protagonist is Narata Ai, a former idol who is terrified of males touching her and the limelight for good reason: a stalker-fan is pursuing her. I’m hoping the anime deals with it sensitively because it’s a very discomfiting and real issue, amidst the color and preppy atmosphere in the first episode. The episode introduces us to an eclectic bunch; amongst them are the loud Sarasa, a pair of twins who stick like glue, and a pair of rivals who refuse to lose. It’ll be interesting to find out how they work together as a troupe that demands perfection, especially when their personalities clash: some believe they should individually stand out and others refuse to be in the limelight.
Yet despite that atmosphere, it’s clear there’s more to come. Narata and Sarasa stick out like sore thumbs for different reasons; one is a disgraced former idol while the other is a country bumpkin. The performing arts is a harsh environment, and I can already feel the tension between the two girls, and their classmates in general. I’m looking forward to how the tension can be managed, and already can’t wait for future episodes because there’s so much to unpack.
Life Lessons with Uramichi-Oniisan: The ugly side of adulthood
Uramichi Omota is a broken man who only seems to be socially functional thanks to his two-sided nature. At a glimpse, he appears to be a cheerful TV personality from the educational program Together with Maman. However, pay attention to him long enough, and you’ll notice this mask slip several times to reveal his lonesome, pessimistic, and broken interior.
Much like many other adults, Uramichi is a man who’s been beaten down by society as his ambitions, hopes, and dreams have seemingly been stripped away from him. He goes from being a celebrated gymnast to living his now unsatisfying life stuck parading for children’s television and we see him display his unhappiness to the kids in a “humorous” manner.
However, while I understand Uramichi is advertised as a comedy anime, I really fail to see it as such. Even as someone with a morbid sense of humor, I didn’t find much of the episode humorous. Generally, the anime feels much too real to be funny, and I find myself being drawn to it for that fact alone. For example, the scene where Uramichi tells the kids that sometimes adults have to act out even when they know they’ll get nothing out of it is more a depressing factual statement than a comedic moment.
Life Lessons with Uramichi-Oniisan answers the question of what would happen if you put a broken, emotionally unstable, formerly ambitious person in the spotlight. You don’t often see such a subject presented in anime, which is why I’m interested in learning more about it.
Peach Boy Riverside: Not very peachy
Peach Boy Riverside follows Princess Saltherine Aldarake (or Sally, for short), who dreams of leaving her city to see the world outside, despite the presence of monsters who roam the land. One day, she crosses paths with a travelling demon-slayer called Mikoto. Although terrified by the scene of slaughter he leaves, the memory of their meeting inspires her to set off on an adventure.
Peach Boy Riverside‘s premiere was dull and unoriginal, with the main saving graces for me being the character designs for Sally and the rabbit-like demi-human Frau, which are cool/attractive and eye-catching (as Frau is depicted as more bunny than human) respectively. Thankfully, the second episode hints at a more entertaining experience via glimpses of decent character dynamics from the main party and a show-stealing appearance from the calm but deadly Mikoto. However, the story seems unlikely to be anything special, and the action in both episodes relies too much on still images to excite, so I’m still keeping my expectations for future episodes low.
Also concerning is the non-chronological order. I’ve enjoyed non-chronological anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 1 and Baccano!, but I’m not sure what Peach Boy Riverside has to gain from skipping ahead to the manga’s second chapter for its premiere, aside from creating a very awkward start. Additionally, the director’s perplexing explanations, combined with the scripts being written in chronological order, doesn’t inspire confidence that this non-linear story-telling attempt will feel less clumsy later. While only time will tell for sure, I’m worried that this already unimpressive show is doomed to being less-than-average.
The Aquatope on White Sand: Pretty and pleasant
I don’t want to jinx things, but The Aquatope on White Sand has a chance of being the first P.A. Works-produced series I’ve enjoyed since 2017’s The Eccentric Family 2 (or 2014’s Shirobako, if we’re not counting sequels).
The story follows two teenage girls, Kukuru Misakino and Fūka Miyazawa. Kukuru is the acting director of the Gama Gama Aquarium with a love of sealife, while Fūka is a former idol who escapes to Okinawa and ends up at the aquarium, which is home to both fish and supernatural phenomena. After meeting Kukuru and learning about the lack of staff, Fūka requests to stay at the Gama Gama Aquarium.
The Aquatope on White Sand’s premiere charmed me from the get-go with an opening sequence that offered pleasant pillow shots and a gentle but ear-catching tune that combines the piano with what I assume to be a shamisen. The rest of the episode didn’t disappoint either. The glimpses of Fūka’s idol background and her struggles create an effective, early investment in the character, while Kukuru offers an enjoyable presence with her joviality and quirky liking for sea life without feeling one-note. Then there are the production values — I felt mildly apprehensive when watching the PVs, but the premiere had me admiring the pretty backgrounds and compositing. It also didn’t invoke any worry about the animation, although the show certainly isn’t competing with Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S or Sonny Boy on that front. My hopes are fairly high for this one.
The Case Study of Vanitas: Noe and Vanitas, PLEASE
Two strangers, the vampire Noe and the human Vanitas, journey together after Noe is ordered by his teacher to learn about the infamous “Book of Vanitas” that curses and kills vampires. But it’s also about how Noe kills Vanitas. That’s what I’m here for: to find out why. And so far, I’m loving it.
The first thing I noticed was the visuals; the Parisian setting and the airship in episode one felt so well-drawn they could well be pieces of art on their own. The fights were smooth too, especially with Noe’s and Vanitas’s fight in episode one. Noe twirling around with a lady in his arms while avoiding Vanitas’s attacks was nothing short of graceful, and him catching her elegantly after backflipping like a trained gymnast made me hold my breath in awe.
The anime’s tone is generally serious, but that doesn’t stop the comedic moments from making me laugh hard: Noe gushes over the Book that Vanitas owns despite supposedly being a “cursed” book for vampires, and Noe’s expressions are sometimes so exaggerated I couldn’t help but laugh and cry. Admittedly, though, not much is known about either person yet. I’m curious to see how their pasts and motivations will unfold, since the two are complete strangers who join forces simply because, as Vanitas put it to Noe, “it’ll benefit you.” Because Vanitas had such a strong premiere, my expectations are fairly high for future episodes, and I’m hoping the anime doesn’t squander its potential.
The Detective is Already Dead: And The Show Is Better Without Her
The Detective is Already Dead follows Kimitsuka Kimihiko, the former assistant of the detective Siesta some years after the latter’s death. Although Kimitsuka has returned to being a student following Siesta’s passing, a meeting with a schoolmate with a heart transplant changes things.
The anime kicks off with a painfully dull double-length premiere. There’s a fantastically animated action sequence involving a tentacle-eared man, but there’s also a draggy pace, uninteresting banter, and a case involving the Hanako-san urban legend that takes up a chunk of time but offers zero thrills. Based on what I’ve learned by scrolling through the light novel’s and manga’s free chapter previews, the premiere draws from later parts of the story to give us more of Siesta before starting the main story. It’s a sound idea on paper, but the chemistry between Kimitsuka and Siesta is so lacking that I couldn’t form an attachment to the latter or care about the relationship.
Luckily, things get better when Siesta is dead. Episode 2’s mystery is extremely easy to figure out, and, perhaps because of the premiere taking some of its elements, it wraps things up so quickly that it already teases the next arc by the end of the episode. However, its conversations, aided by occasionally weird but amusing lines like, “I’ll touch your tonsils without mercy,” didn’t threaten to knock me asleep, which is admittedly faint praise. Still, this improvement did stop me from dropping the show, and depending on how the story progresses, there is potential for decent entertainment here.
Stay tuned for the second part of our Summer 2021 Anibitez!