Anime Trending Staff’s Best/Favorite Summer 2021 Anime (So Far)

With the Summer 2021 anime season about to end in a month, the Anime Trending News staff wanted to share some of their favorite shows so far this season! 

The Aquatope on White Sand

Gracie: There is no better way to describe this anime than magic in a bottle — or, in this case, on a screen. The Aquatope on White Sand has continued to delight me with each passing episode filled with feel- good moments, positive characters, and plenty of empathy and heart. My positive feelings towards this anime, however, came as a surprise. The setup of the anime, and in fact, many of the episodes themselves, come as fairly predictable in the slice-of-life formula. I have been able to surmise three episodes’ worth of stories, and while predictability isn’t necessarily bad, it leaves little room for imagination and, by extension, unexpected feelings. As a result, I assumed I would enjoy the series as temporary, feel-good entertainment.

Despite the anime introducing episodic plotlines that begin and end exactly how I expected them to, I still find myself confronting unexpected feelings and truths and shedding tears of emotions due to the incredible execution of the scenes. Dead parents are commonplace in anime, but the series’ perfect utilization of a trope through mystical water, haunting music, and impeccable narrative timing speaks volumes to the writing, characters, and visual storytelling that continues throughout the series. I didn’t come into the season thinking an anime about saving a humble aquarium while forming friendships would become my favorite of the season, but it has certainly cemented its place in my heart as my number one pick for the summer. 

The Case Study of Vanitas

Melvyn: The reasons why I feel satisfied after an episode of this 19th century Paris-set supernatural tale vary from week to week. Sometimes it’s the intrigue of its mysteries and vampire lore, or the introductions of formidable new characters like the vampire Lord Ruthven or the Catholic Church-affiliated vampire hunter Roland that stick in my mind. At other times, it’s the, er, erotic blood-sucking that our characters partake in. All things considered, however, it’s hard to deny that the visuals are an overarching strength of the show, and I’m not just talking about the delicious close-ups of the attractive character designs.

A fight scene in the first episode that is stylistically silhouetted and framed through an ornate railing is an example that comes to mind. Elsewhere, alternate art styles give flavor to scenes like the fairy tale-like lore dump that kicks off the show or entities such as the shadowy creature that feasts on vampires’ true names. Episode 4 sells the grandiose size and majesty of the building it takes place in with its framing and details, while Episode 5 brings its sweet-then-tragic flashback to life with mood-fitting colours and lighting. I wouldn’t put Vanitas on this list if its looks were the only thing it had going for it, but the show also wouldn’t be here without that aspect.

Sonny Boy

Mehdi: The simplest way I can describe Sonny Boy as an anime is to call it “big brain.”  And simple, I will try to keep my thoughts, because simple, this show is not. I’ll be the first to admit that each episode can be difficult to follow and may require multiple viewings to fully grasp it. The story juggles the overarching mystery between episodic arcs well enough, but the ensuing result is dense — hence the recommendation of rewatching, pausing, rewinding, or heck, you may as well take notes at this point. So, if it’s so complicated and difficult to consume, then what’s the point of even watching?

“Intrigue” is the word I’ve settled on to best answer that question, as it encapsulates the appeal of this perplexing supernatural narrative. If you are an innately curious person like I am, this anime is a delight to analyze week after week. It is rich with metaphors and subtle storytelling through excellent visual direction and shot composition. I wouldn’t call it a masterclass in writing just yet (that would require me to understand it all significantly more, for one), but I’ve yet to feel confused by any fault other than my own. Most importantly, this anime hasn’t bored me once, despite how strenuous it can feel to watch. It’s the kind of story that feels impossible to explain, but I am having a fantastic time discovering what each episode has to say.

The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace

Abdul: The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace is oddly one of the most engaging anime I’ve seen this year thus far. The actions the Idaten and demons make proves that this is less of a story about heroes or villains and more of a saga about these two arrogant and powerful beings. Yeasley declares that deities don’t usually bother with the dealings of lesser beings unless it involves a world-ending threat. That statement encapsulates the major theme of this anime, and left quite an impression on me.

While the anime is a bit tone-deaf when executing some of its grimmer narrative points (as seen at the end of episode 1), the stark contrast to the usual characters we see in anime continues to intrigue me. There is no central hero or character to cheer for or empathize with — there’s just these two similar but different beings playing out this pseudo-war between themselves with their own unique methods and strategies. Additionally, the anime’s production quality is impeccable. Each and every one of the numerous action scenes have swift and fluid movements, and the backgrounds are colorful and highly aesthetic. The character designs are outlined with cartoonish properties amidst vibrant colors, which unironically match the absurd amount of intense yet equally cartoonish violence shown in each episode.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S

Kwok: Kyoto Animation returns with the newest addition of the Miss Kobayashi franchise, featuring some wonderful sakuga and animation creativity. Even the opening sequence, which has super fast-paced sequences like in other Kyoto Animation works, is beautifully done and timed with the music by fhana. For fans familiar with the series, the second season encompasses everything the series has to offer — impeccable animation, a growing cast of hilarious characters — and yet, Kyoto Animation continues to surpass all expectations and aspects of the adaptation.

The attention to detail is incredible, especially the sound direction. It’s hard to describe how much effort the sound director and team change the audio based on the scene’s perspective. In one episode where Fafnir and Lucoa are having a private conversation, the camera angle changes to the perspective of the roof and adjusts how well you hear their voices from that angle. It sounded as if you were sitting on the roof and eavesdropping on them. The subtle changes make the viewing experience surreal and amazing, and I am looking forward to how Kyoto Animation wraps up this season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S.

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