It’s finally time for the Fall 2021 season, and you know what that means — blankets, pumpkin lattes, and a new batch of anime! This season features invigorating storylines from the likes of Ranking of Kings, sharp detailing from Blue Period, and hilariously spooky moments from Mieruko-chan, so go grab your favorite toasty drink and check out which anime should keep you company.
Here’s Part 2 of our staff’s first impressions of Fall 2021’s anime!
Blue Period: “Just leave your passion as a hobby” is something an adult would say
Blue Period is one of my most anticipated anime this season due to its more realistic premise that stands out from the constant stream of fantasy isekai. The story follows model student Yatora Yaguchi, who is in a constant, lonely struggle to fit in with society and meet his parents’ expectations to enter a good university. He considers art as a useless field that offers no stability and waves off the dreams of the art club students. However, upon encountering an art piece by an upperclassman and subsequently submitting a watercolor piece for his elective art class, Yatora finds himself becoming an impassioned man in pursuit of passing the Tokyo University of the Arts exam and finding his true self.
The animation in Blue Period is above average, but the most striking aspects of the show are the background art and detail on the paintings that makes the first episode stand out from being average. The blue-shaded hues on the backdrop of Shibuya pop off the screen and blend better than flat colors meshing together, and Mori’s art features greenish tones that glow underneath the skin of her subjects. Art aside, the voice acting in Blue Period perfectly portrays the character’s personalities, especially with Fumi Hirano’s acting for the coy, yet pragmatic Sensei Saeki.
I look forward to the promising execution of Blue Period as one of the few shows I am keeping up this season.
By Agnes Nguyen
Deep Insanity: The Lost Child: Trying not to die is such a novel concept
Deep Insanity: The Lost Child is part of Square Enix’s latest multimedia project which revolves around the enigmatic “Asylum” found in the far reaches of Antarctica. It is said that the mysterious Randolph Syndrome originates from this location, and in every media iteration of the project, different groups of adventurers descend into the Asylum in hopes of finding a cure. The Lost Child specifically focuses on protagonist Shigure Daniel Kai, a newbie volunteer in the Vera Squad that is tasked to scope out the Asylum and kill the monsters within the zones.
It’s an interesting premise that is reminiscent of Made in Abyss’s setting and is paired with sci-fi exploration tech, but the first episode of The Lost Child squanders it. Strange foliage gives the ambiance a suitable sense of wonder, but the flow between the 2D animation and 3D CGI is too janky. On the narrative side, the character interactions are scattered and make no sense. One moment, the Vera Squad is discussing physical and mental parts of themselves that they’ve lost to be qualified as adventurers, then Shigure suddenly declares that he wants to become a hero, which completely shifts the tone from dark and somber to bright and optimistic.
I’m not exactly sure what kind of direction this series will take, but it’s a bit of a shame how flat the concept fell on its face. Should I keep up with it? Maybe, if I had a ten-foot pole to poke at it.
By Agnes Nguyen
Komi Can’t Communicate: Komi Supreme
Komi Can’t Communicate follows Hitohito Tadano and his attempt to help socially awkward classmate Shouko Komi make 100 friends. Despite the interesting premise, I never felt compelled to check out the manga, and I would have skipped the anime too were it not for the trailer suggesting an impressive adaptation. So far, the show has been impressive indeed.
Komi Can’t Communicate’s premiere is a joy to watch, and it’s not just a matter of the show being easy on the eye. The first episode is peppered with comedic moments and character states (mostly involving nervous trembling and/or stuttering) that are powered by strong exaggeration and lively energy — the moment where Komi writes her name on a blackboard is delightfully punchy.
Additionally, there are a good dose of varied and creative cuts, including a scene shot as if from behind a blackboard and even pixel art game-like moments. They contrast well with the plainer moments, and the overall experience feels coherent. The creativity doesn’t stop with these shots either; text is displayed on-screen in various ways to elevate both comedic and heartfelt scenes, and one cut replays some of the episode’s earlier moments on the classroom’s window panels.
Despite being impressed by the visual execution and direction, my enjoyment was affected by how the early moments of the premiere felt like brief vignettes stitched together, although the pacing thankfully improves a third of the way in. Whether the rest of the show can match the delivery of the premiere is still up in the air, but Komi Can’t Communicate leaves a great first impression.
By Melvyn Tan
Mieruko-chan: Poor Miko-chan
Mieruko-chan follows Miko, a young high school girl with the unlucky ability to see all manner of ghosts and monsters around her. Unfortunately, she’s often targeted by these spirits who torment her by either stalking her or invading her personal space. Miko, unfortunately, has to survive this torment each day and pretend not to see them, fearing what they might do if she doesn’t.
The first episode starts like a drab slice of life anime as it gives us a glimpse into Miko’s supposedly mundane life. However, after the first major spook about fourteen minutes in, the anime kicks things into high gear and presents multiple horrific figures each day to traumatize poor Miko while also progressively providing more details about her ability and these malicious entities.
The staff did an incredible job transferring the manga’s designs into motion, as while the manga’s art is great, it doesn’t compare to the anime’s excellent presentation thus far. The amount of detail used in monster designs and their unsettling body mannerisms are near breathtaking. In addition, the intense sound design, seen chiefly in how they talk, significantly contributes to their creep factor. The anime also sports a great opening that lyrically captures Miko’s inner turmoil.
However, one issue I — and I’m sure many viewers — have noticed are the often distracting fan service shots of the characters’ bodies. These cuts only succeed in ruining the flow between frights. Despite this, Mieruko-chan is a well-executed horror anime overall, and I look forward to seeing more of it.
By Abdul Saad
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2: Back and hornier than ever
The adventures of Rudeus, Eris, and Ruijerd continue as the trio resume their journey across unknown land to get Eris back home. It’s not clear how much time has passed since we last saw the group but judging by their actions, it hasn’t been long, given the characters act the same as usual. Rudeus is still a perverted creep, Eris is still as brash and aggressive as ever, and despite previous events, Ruijerd is still impulsive when it comes to children. The cour starts as the group tries to board a ship to progress their journey, but unfortunately, various factors keep getting in their way.
The anime continues to provide fans the elements it’s known for, such as its adult humor and amazingly animated action scenes, but also succeeds in showcasing excellent world-building by introducing more characters and locations, such as the trope-y demon loli Kishirika and the new village of beast men. It also progressively fleshes out other characters like Roxy, who’s started her own adventure looking for Rudeus.
The anime’s production level is still top-notch. The sound design, best highlighted in the action scenes, is impeccable, and the visuals and character designs are incredibly detailed. In short, Mushoku Tensei is as thrilling and humorous as ever and provides fans with new elements to get excited about. The anime is probably the best isekai anime I’ve seen, and I’ve unfortunately seen quite a lot. The only downside is, of course, Rudeus and his perpetual, often criminal, horniness, but honestly, if you haven’t learned to ignore that at this point, you probably never will.
By Abdul Saad
Muv-Luv Alternative: Nice mechs, but…
The Muv-Luv Alternative visual novel is an engrossing and epic experience, set in an alternate Earth where mankind faces an unrelenting alien horde called the BETA. It’s also the sequel to a two-part visual novel, effectively making it the third part of a trilogy. Thus, it’s no surprise that the Alternative anime, with the exception of the first episode and its original content, so far feels like a continuation to something — because it very much is. The problem is that the preceding two parts, Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited, have not been adapted into anime, which results in obvious issues for newcomers.
To give the show credit, it does provide novices with the information needed to follow the story. However, it can be overwhelming — for instance, newcomers will have to quickly accept the fact that protagonist Takeru Shirogane is both originally from a world without BETA (shown in Extra) and is now experiencing Alternative’s world for a second time (following his Unlimited experience) due to time-loop reasons, among other things.
Additionally, many moments in the second (and latest at the time of writing) episode alone require first-hand knowledge of Extra’s and Unlimited’s events to feel meaningful or enjoyable, and the show’s use of flashbacks to provide context for some of these moments doesn’t make up for that. Those curious about Muv-Luv will certainly want to avoid using this anime as an entry point.
Things aren’t perfect for Alternative readers either, as the anime suffers from very underwhelming production values (although the Tactical Surface Fighters are, thankfully, pleasing to witness). I managed to enjoy the show at first in spite of that, and wasn’t bothered by the fact that the cast is different from the visual novel either. However, as of the third and (at the time of writing) most recent episode, the visual issues have become impossible to ignore, and the experience is made worse by the rushed pacing. Muv-Luv Alternative deserves better than this.
By Melvyn Tan
Ranking of Kings: The underdog prince
In a world where kings are ranked, Prince Bojji, the firstborn son of King Boss and his late first wife, draws scorn due to his deafness and perceived lack of physical ability. When Bojji crosses paths with a shadowy being called Kage, Kage initially takes advantage of the meek boy but starts to root for him as he learns about Bojji’s circumstances.
I, too, was rooting for Bojji by the end of Ranking of Kings’s premiere, but I have to admit that I struggled a bit during the first half. The down-on-his-luck Kage wants to sell Bojji’s clothes, and Bojji willingly gives them away multiple times, illustrating the prince’s innocence, kindness, and also how years of bullying cause him to enjoy Kage’s company. The following part is where I feel slightly mixed. After giving his clothes away, Bojji indiscreetly returns to the Boss Kingdom in his underwear, and the reaction of the kingdom’s members reveals how little they care for the prince due to his disability. At the same time, however, their separate sense of bewilderment at Bojji proudly strutting around in his underwear day after day isn’t out of left field, especially when they lack the same insight about his meetings with Kage (which Bojji keeps secret of his own will) as the audience. It absolutely does not justify their bullying and condescending behavior, but it does make sense that this unusual occurrence would cause them to question Bojji’s fitness as the next king, which distracts from the other underdog story elements.
Visually, Ranking of Kings has cartoony character designs that I don’t usually gravitate to, but I did like the easily readable expressions. The premiere’s production values are also solid, with standout elements including shots that strongly convey the size of the massive royal castle in contrast to Bojji’s small frame and the sparring matches that cap off the episode. I’m not wholly engaged yet, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the show.
By Melvyn Tan
Taisho Otome Fairy Tale: Desperately hoping the anime does the manga justice
Set in the Taisho period, Taisho Otome is about Tamahiko Shima, a young man who is shunted off to a rural mansion by his rich family following an accident that killed his mother and cost him his right arm. One day, he meets cheerful and energetic Yuzuki, who was sold off to be Tamahiko’s wife in exchange for clearing her parents’ debt. As a big fan of the manga, I really wanted to see how the anime could breathe life into the couple’s story, but I’m not as excited after watching the first two episodes.
I felt that the anime doesn’t do Yuzuki justice. In the manga, she is energetic, but with a serious commitment to her duty and purpose. Yet in the anime, she feels so overwhelmingly energetic that I could not keep up with her. If this was intentionally set up so we could sympathize with Tamahiko’s frustrations towards Yuzuki, then congratulations, she annoys me! The anime skips the initial thawing of the couple’s relationship too, but the bulk of their relationship development doesn’t appear until later, so I hope that Yuzuki and the relationship deepens by then.
However, I felt they did Tamahiko’s characterization well. Kobayashi Yūsuke brings out the despair and depression that crushes Tamahiko, which is key to Tamahiko’s initial outlook on life.
Overall, I want to like the anime version, but it will take the performance of the next episode or two for me to decide if I am satisfied or if I leave disappointed.
By Crystal Lee
The Faraway Paladin: Secrets shouldn’t be kept among family
The Faraway Paladin features the isekai coming-of-age story of Will, a human child who has mysteriously been reincarnated in a fantasy world. He finds himself in the company of three undead beings: the skeleton warrior Blood, the mummy priestess Mary, and the wizard ghost Gus in an abandoned ruin. Together, the four of them form a familial bond during his adolescent years and train him in the art of combat, sorcery, and theology, all while deliberately keeping secrets from each other.
At this point, most isekais will have the protagonist monologue their way into predicting the remaining cast’s motivations and tell the story to the audience. However, The Faraway Paladin doesn’t do that and, instead, focuses on letting the mystery unfold through smaller animation aspects and voice acting — Blood’s eyes gleam in warning whenever Gus reveals too much and Mary methodically pauses to mull over questions, then never changes the lilt of her voice when changing topics. The subtleties keep the audience and Will in the dark, leaving us all in anticipation for what’s to come.
While the use of subtle elements is refreshing, the general animation and colorization for The Faraway Paladin is more typically isekai with the color blocking and lack of depth. It may throw off those who are diehard fans of the series, but for those who don’t mind such things, The Faraway Paladin is a decent series to look out for.
By Agnes Nguyen
And that’s it for the second part! Click here for the first part of the Anibitez Fall 2021, in case you missed it.