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Winter 2021 Anime


Winter 2021 Anime Staff Viewer’s Guide

Much awaited sequels, highly-anticipated premiers, and completely unknown gems smother this Winter 2021 anime season in so much love it’s downright suffocating!

We’ve been creating these viewer’s guides for the past two years. In that two years, we’ve never seen a season as stacked as this one! This season breaks the record for most “Highly Recommended” ratings for the list, and it’s not hard to see why. Much awaited sequels, highly-anticipated premiers, and completely unknown gems smother this Winter 2021 anime season in so much love it’s downright suffocating! There’s a potential hit for everyone here.

(Streaming site links are based off of US territories unless otherwise specified)

Attack on Titan: The Final Season

Attack on Titan Final Season

Studio: MAPPA
Director: Yuuichiro Hayashi
Main Voice Actors: Yuki Kaji (Eren), Yui Ishikawa (Mikasa), Marina Inoue (Armin)

Attack on Titan has been bucking familiar anime trends since it first began but the 4th and final season takes this strength to daring new heights. Beginning by humanizing the enemies we’ve grown to hate over the course of the series, and offering us a world from their perspective, Attack on Titan‘s 4th season then smashes both sides against each other in a bloody conflict for the ages.

With the final season just past its halfway point, there are still more surprises to come, no doubt, but if Attack on Titan can maintain even half of its shocking, adrenaline-fuelled direction for the remainder of this run, it will no doubt go down in history as one of the all-time greats. (Mike Worby)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation

Dr. Stone: Stone Wars

Dr. Stone Stone Wars

Studio: TMS Entertainment
Director: Shinya Iino
Main Voice Actors: Yūsuke Kobayashi (Senku), Gen Sato (Chrom), Manami Numakura (Kohaku), Yuichi Nakamura (Tsukasa Shishio)

The unrelenting cheer of Dr. Stone continues with the much-hyped second season of the show dubbed, with playful self-awareness, Stone Wars.

Many of Dr. Stone’s elements can be found in other shows. There’s the physically weak but empowered protagonist, a retinue of devoted companions, and a villain who intends catastrophic harm. Yet the series stands apart thanks to its humanistic premise. Senku succeeds not because of divine abilities but because of humanity’s rich history. Yes, he is a super-genius who can create modern technology in a primitive world but everything he makes is a facsimile of something in our mundane reality, and the results are as entertaining as they are humbling. When Senku feeds an entire village with what is basically Cup Noodles, I giggled and contemplated. Even something as trivial, and deliciously trashy, as Cup Noodle came about thanks to creativity founded on prior human accomplishment; it’s refreshing and optimistic in the best of ways.

The second season doubles down on this unrelenting optimism with Senku leading a bloodless war. After the events of the first season, Tsukasa — the muscle head who wants to save only the young from petrification — is gearing up for an invasion. In response, Senku launches a counter-attack using a cell phone in the the hopes of beguiling the enemy with science. It’s pure escapism to be sure, there are no hard choices to be made or sadists taking advantage of technological advancement, but the joy the series has is sincere and infectious.(Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town?

Last Dungeon Kid

Director: migmi
Main Voice Actors: Yumiri Hanamori (Lloyd), Madoka Asahina (Salen), Ai Kayano (Marie), Minami Tsuda (Riho)

Let’s get this straight, this is not an isekai. It looks like an isekai and it definitely has the title of an isekai, but Last Dungeon is not an isekai. It sure as hell feels like one, though. Overpowered bloke solves everything with brute force and has companions flock to him as a result. However, that doesn’t mean Last Dungeon isn’t entertaining as heck.

Our best boy Link- I mean Lloyd hails from a hidden village founded by one of the original heroes of the land, where being insanely overpowered is just par for the course. For undisclosed reasons he heads to the capital in hopes of becoming a knight, not knowing how abnormal his strength is outside his home village.

A protagonist who never realizes how much stupidly stronger he is compared to his peers sounds like it might get annoying, but so far clever writing and setups make it easy to suspend that disbelief and just go along for a ride. The mental gymnastics Lloyd goes through to convince himself he’s weak is plenty entertaining in their own right, and that’s without even getting into the cathartic satisfaction that is watching some stuck-up schmuck get his ass handed to him. Last Dungeon doesn’t necessarily push the envelope in any aspect, but it’s plenty dumb fun regardless. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Funimation

Wonder Egg Priority

Wonder Egg Priority

Studio: CloverWorks
Director: Shin Wakabayashi
Main Voice Actors: Kanata Aikawa (Ai Ohto), Tomori Kusunoki (Neiru Aonuma), Shuka Saitō (Rika Kawai), Hinaki Yano (Momoe Sawaki)

Wonder Egg Priority might just be a masterpiece. Yes, judging the quality of an entire show off just the first four episodes is premature, but if the series continues as it is then it’ll undoubtedly emerge as modern classic.

Part of what makes this show so brilliant is that no matter how ridiculous things get, it never forgets the sorrow of its characters. The series may follow a group of girls who battle fierce monsters but it aches with real world implications as the girls all carry a crushing guilt that imbues even their most heroic acts with self-loathing. The protagonists all had someone dear to them commit suicide and they help lost souls, who also committed suicide, in the hope that one day their loved ones will also be saved.

But at the same time, the show is a delightful celebration of love that contains bombastic battles appropriate to something like Kingdom Hearts. It’s positively astounding how the series melds such seemingly disparate parts, but they go together beautifully. The fanciful fights exist not as a pat answer — they occur in a dream space and involve the dead after all — but rather they serve to assert the inherent goodness of the girls who are there fighting on behalf of those who cannot.

Deftly combining astute psychology, pathos, fantasy, and monster-slaying fun, Wonder Egg Priority is anime at its most entertaining and profound. (Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime 2nd Season

Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2

Studio: 8bit
Director: Atsushi Nakayama
Main Voice Actor(s): Miho Okasaki (Rimuru)

Season two of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is almost jarringly consistent. Everything from the pacing to the animation quality is so similar that it feels like an extension of the first season rather than a new chapter—and that suits it just fine.

Barring a short recap, this season picks up right after the OVAs as Rimuru prepares to end his tenure at Freedom Academy and return to Tempest to focus on further establishing its relations with other nations. It’s a slow burn, but that’s part of the series’ charm. All the gags, recurring characters, and meticulous world building elements are here in full effect and just as enthralling as they were before.

In short, if you’re already following That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and just want to spend more time in this intricately fleshed out world, season two is an easy recommendation. It’s not the most exciting start to a season, but for series fans it’s a welcome homecoming nonetheless. (Brent Middleton)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

SK8 the Infinity

SK8 The Infinity

Studio: Bones
Director: Hiroko Utsumi
Main Voice Actors: Tasuku Hatanaka (Reki), Chiaki Kobayashi (Langa)

I’ve engaged in pretty much every board sport out there — snowboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, etc. — but skateboarding is the one I never really got into. Like any good sports anime, though, SK8 sure as hell makes me want to try!

This is an original skateboarding anime brought to us by the maestros at Bones and it shows. Eye-catching, colorful sites and characters fill the streets of Okinawa as punks and punkettes try to prove their superiority in a top-secret downhill jam called S. It’s all premo corn soup that’s easy to slurp up when taken with the flashy, over-the-top races. Bones fires on all cylinders as they painstakingly capture the snappy movements of the riders without any obvious use of CG. Something tells me the tricks and maneuvers some of the riders are pulling off aren’t the most realistic or feasible and hardened skaters may have a bone to pick with that, but that doesn’t stop them from being a visual showpiece to behold. You come into SK8 looking for a ride, and it sure takes you on one. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Highly recommended

Watch on Funimation

Back Arrow

Back Arrow anime

Studio: Studio VOLN
Director: Gorō Taniguchi
Main Voice Actors: Yuki Kaji (Back Arrow), Aya Suzaki (Atlee Ariel), Kenyu Horiuchi (Zetsu Daidan), Tomokazu Sugita (Shu Bi), Megumi Han (Ren Sin)

“These (undies) were my fathers but he passed away…That lady risked her life to give me undies!”

If such lines make you chuckle then Back Arrow, despite being generic garbage, may be worth a look cause sometimes an anime is so bad, it’s actually kind of good.

Back Arrow’s plot is so cliched, it seems almost like self-parody — and perhaps it is. The story involves a super-powered amnesiac tied to a global conspiracy, a giant wall, warring nations divided by intellect and intelligence, and giant mechs. There’s also the obligatory big-breasted women, most of whom are dressed like cowboys for some weird reason, saved by vacuous masculinity, but there is something entertaining in the stupidity. The series leans so hard into every stereotype imaginable and offers its characters dialogue worthy of Tommy Wiseau that it’s hard not to laugh. I will by no means watch more of this show — there’s way too much excellent stuff out there right now — but I did have fun with the first few episodes. Undies are a special family heirloom after all. (Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Funimation

The Promised Neverland Season 2

The Promised Neverland Season 2

Studio: CloverWorks
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Main Voice Actors: Sumire Morohoshi (Emma), Mariya Ise (Ray), Shinei Ueki (Don), Lynn (Gilda)

The Promised Neverland is a rare instance of morality, humans’ relationships with animals, and the ethics of flesh consumption being addressed in media. That it marries a white-knuckle horror narrative with its big questions is a testament to its quality and entertainment. 2019’s breakout first season was met with waves of popularity and acclaim, and prompted me to write this divisive article.

Season 2 follows Emma and friends’ journey into the unknown, in more ways than one, as this is an anime original endeavour, albeit with the input and blessing of the manga’s author. How this will play out is anyone’s guess, but as the anime already seems to be abandoning the beloved Goldy Pond arc, reception has been mixed to say the least.

With the manga exploring challenging (and arguably pro-vegan) subject matter — such as factory farms and hunting reserves — it would be disheartening for the anime to skip such powerfully brutal material. Only time will tell how things play out but for now at least, The Promised Neverland continues to flaunt top-notch entertainment and production value. (Harry Morris)

Recommendation: Wait and see

Watch on Funimation

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Mushoku Tensei

Studio: Studio Bind
Director: Manabu Okamoto
Main Voice Actors: Yumi Uchiyama (Rudeus), Konomi Kohara (Roxy), Ai Kayano (Sylph), Ai Kakuma (Eris)

With such a constant flood of isekai anime coming out every season, it’s easy to forget why the genre became so beloved in the first place. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation doesn’t reinvent the wheel (at least, not in the first few episodes), but it skillfully embodies the joy, escapism, and fantasy that comes with having a second chance at life.

Much like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a SlimeJobless Reincarnation opens with the accidental death of a man in his 30’s who happens to get reincarnated in a fantasy world. What sets it apart from others in the genre is its staunch focus on slow-burn character development. Rudeus (or Rudy for short) starts out as a newborn baby but retains all of his memories. He has a good heart despite being rather mischievous, and as he gets the privilege of growing up with a new loving family in the countryside. For as despicable a character as he was in his past life, Rudy’s genuine efforts at a fresh start after having lived as a selfish shut-in make for a genuinely moving redemption story.

Jobless Reincarnation is off to a stellar start because it’s completely fulfilling the feel-good ideal of isekai. Growing up studying magic while surrounded by a loving family in a peaceful village is as cozy as it gets, and Rudy’s ability to apply knowledge from his previous life—and learn new things like how to conquer past traumas—makes for an incredibly cathartic watch. (Brent Middleton)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation or Hulu

Cells at Work!! / Cell at Work! CODE BLACK!

Cells at Work Code Black

Studios: David Production & LIDENFILMS
Directors: Hirofumi Ogura & Hideya Yamamoto
Main Voice Actors: Tomoaki Maeno (White Blood Cell U-1146), Kana Hanazawa (Red Blood Cell AE3803), Yoko Hikasa (White Blood Cell U-1196), Junya Enoki (Red Blood Cell AA2153)

Immunology 101: The Anime is back and as a cancer biologist I couldn’t be more pleased! The new season serves more of what made the first such a delight, bringing wonderful anthropomorphizations of diseases and bodily functions, all while being bizarrely accurate.

Airing literally side-by-side the new season of the original Cells at Work!, though, is Cells at Work! CODE BLACK! While the original series portrays an averagely healthy human body, CODE BLACK! takes place in an individual possibly living the most unhealthy life possible. Chain-smoking, heavy drinking, and a sedentary lifestyle are just a handful of factors keeping this body and its poor cells under duress, and it shows.

Red and White Bloods Cells (now gender-swapped from the original) spend day in, day out in a battle for survival with no end in sight. The result is a genre shift that puts CODE BLACK! solidly in the seinen category that wouldn’t feel out of place amongst the likes of Demon Slayer or Attack on Titan if some terms were swapped around. The show can be surprisingly emotional at times as innocent cells’ lives are lost one after another due to factors outside of their control, and just like the original series the creative liberties taken still adhere impressively to real-life facts, all things considered. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Highly recommended

Watch both Cells at Work! and CODE BLACK! on Funimation

Yuru Camp△ (Laid-Back Camp) Season 2

Yuru Camp Season 2

Studio: C-Station
Director: Yoshiaki Kyōgoku
Main Voice Actors: Nadeshiko Kagamihara (Yumiri Hanamori), Rin Shima (Nao Toyama), Chiaki Ogaki (Sayuri Hara), Aoi Inuyama (Aki Toyosaki), Ena Saito (Rie Takahashi)

Yuru Camp, you have been sorely missed.

A surprise hit from the 2017 winter season, Yuru Camp took fans on a wildly comfy camping journey through Japan. With colorfully animated real-life locations, a varied soundtrack of Celtic, bluegrass, and other folk music, explored the great Japanese outdoors with a cast of wholesome, dorky girls.

Anticipation has been high as viewers have waited these past few years for the series’ return. Return it did, coming back in a bright flash of dry wit and neo-rustic pastel. Where Season 1 focused on the joys of group camping, Season 2 focuses instead on the quiet meditations of solo camping. Above all, however, are the detailed locales that buzz with color and life through a cozy din of conversation, ambiance, and good friends.

Season 2 brings us on further adventures through Yamanashi prefecture and beyond. From the heights of Mount Minobu to the beaches of Hamamatsu, Rin, Nadeshiko, and the rest of the Yuru Camp girls find new ways to experience their mutual growing love of the outdoors.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite thing about Yuru Camp: the food. Each and every episode has the girls trying some new delicious local specialty, like grilled mochi, unagi bowls, matcha cake tea sets. It makes me miss Japan dearly.

Every moment of this show is pure comfort and it’s incredibly welcome in 2021. (Kyle Rogacion)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

Non Non Biyori Nonstop

Non Non Biyori Nonstop

Director: Shinya Kawatsura
Main Voice Actors: Kotori Koiwai (Renge), Rie Takahashi (Hotaru), Kana Asumi (Komari), Ayane Sakura (Natsumi)

I’m gonna be real here, the newest season of Non Non Biyori’s greatest weakness is the fact it’s airing the same time as the new season of Yuru Camp. Yuru Camp is objectively better as a CGDCT show in almost every facet from presentation, to characters, to animation and more.

That said, there’s still no anime quite like Non Non Biyori that allows you to just take it slow with a bunch of country bumpkins finding joy in the most insignificant of things. Recorders, insects, and Nyan Passes are all present and accounted for in this idyllic rural village that does well to bring a racing mind to a slow. I also can’t think of any other anime that takes place in a Japanese rural village that doesn’t involve the supernatural, a murder, or some combination of the two. In that sense, Non Non Biyori scratches a very distinct itch that I had been waiting for more of for years since the last season ended. It’s just a shame that every time I watch a new episode I think about how I wish it was a new episode of Yuru Camp instead. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

Beastars 2nd Season

Beastars 2nd season

Studio: Orange
Director: Shin’ichi Matsumi
Main Voice Actors: Chikahiro Kobayashi (Legoshi), Sayaka Senbongi (Haru), Yūki Ono (Louis)

Beastars’ sophomore season is much more confident than the first, seamlessly blending character work and plot progression in a way that had previously eluded it.

The series began with two distinct stories: the wolf Legoshi becoming enamored with Haru, a dwarf rabbit, and a student at their high school being eaten. While these two stories are clearly thematically intertwined, Legoshi confused attraction to Haru is directly tied up to his carnivorous desires; they felt at odds as the intimate character work overshadowed the larger context and by season’s end the devouring plotline was basically dropped.

Luckily, the new season addresses this conundrum by reintroducing the student’s murder and making Legoshi the lead detective. Legoshi was friends with the devoured student, something established in the first season, and for reasons I won’t spoil, he finally decides to investigate. As Legoshi seeks to uncover the murderer his personal conflicts come up against the grander politics of herbivores vs carnivores as well as the grand aspirations of Louis, the melancholic deer who wishes to find empowerment no matter the cost. The result is a wonderful interconnected tapestry where every scene adds context to the last.

Beastars has always been a good show that uses its whacky R rated version of Zootopia to raise compelling questions about power and identity. This season capitalizes on those strengths and addresses the prior season’s problems. It’s utterly compelling. (Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Netflix (Japan)

So I’m a Spider, So What?

So I'm a Spider So What

Studio: Millepensee
Director: Shin Itagaki
Main Voice Actors: Aoi Yuuki (Kumoko)

Girl’s classroom gets blown up. Girl wakes up as a fantasy land spider. Girl survives as a fantasy land spider. That’s it, that’s the entirety of So I’m a Spider, So What and that’s all the complexity it needs.

Kumoko is a realistic optimist who tries to make the best out of any situation, but also isn’t afraid to let out her frustrations when things start to suck. And boy does Kumoko’s situation suck! Unlike many other similar isekai — like Slime also this season — survival does not come easily to Kumoko as she is forced to use every tool in her arsenal just to barely scrape by on a daily basis. She often comes up with unexpected ways to turn the tables on overwhelming odds which keeps you compelled throughout.

Kumoko herself is a frantic, spazz of a character which makes her one of the most immediately likable isekai protagonists in recent years assisted by a standout performance by Aoi Yuuki. It’s clear she’ll eventually grow to become all-powerful, but at least here it feels like she deserves it.

All this is presented in what, for all intents and purposes, is some mighty fine CG. It’s easy to see why a studio would opt for using CG to animate a character with eight legs but they take the opportunity to play to the medium’s strengths such as tracking camera shots and constant minute movement of characters. It’s not quite the graphical showcase as 2017’s Land of the Lustrous is, but is still impressive nonetheless. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll


Horimiya anime

Studio: CloverWorks
Director: Masashi Ishihama
Main Voice Actor(s): Kouki Uchiuama (Miyamura), Haruka Tomatsu (Hori)

As someone who typically prefers his rom-coms with more comedy than romance, Horimiya is quite the treat. It’s full of silly school antics, slapstick-style jokes, and over-exaggerated reactions, but from the first episode—and the title itself—it’s clear where the romantic focus lies. This isn’t as much a “will they, won’t they” story as it is a positively charming tale of navigating high school relationships and friend groups.

This rather straightforward angle that Horimiya takes with the romance makes most major story beats feel much more realistic. When Hori’s little brother gets hurt and a nearly unrecognizable Miyamura brings him home for the first time, Miyamura doesn’t suddenly decide to hide his identity from Hori; he announces it matter-of-factually. This allows for a genuine friendship to be established and grow naturally over time. It’s all so well-paced and developed that by the end of episode one it’s impossible to imagine the two apart because their bond is so dang believable.

Horimiya slips into tropes and overly-dramatic scenes every now and then, but it’s consistently anchored by strong, likable characters that play off each other almost perfectly. Just like regular friends, they’re able to fight and make things awkward one day and talk it all out and start to grow past it the next. Though the dynamic between Miyamura and Hori is squarely the star of the show, it’s the entire cast that makes Horimiya shine so brightly. (Brent Middleton)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Watch on Funimation or Hulu



Studio: J.C. Staff
Director: Masato Matsune
Main Voice Actors: Saya Fukuzumi (Hirana), Shizuku Hoshinoya (Akino), Haruka Shiraishi (Rei)

This is probably the last time I’ll watch a “WIXOSS” show. The first series, Selector Infected  WIXOSS, was a surprise delight due to its fusion of children’s card game draped over a genuinely compelling, character-driven mystery. The follow-up series, Lostorage Incited WIXOSS, was not nearly as engaging, trading intrigue for predictable and aggravating characters. Now the newest entry, WIXOSS DIVA(A)LIVE, forgoes any form of mystery for the same tired idol formula we’ve seen a thousand times before. The main trio falls into painfully tired archetypes and the plot has followed the idol story playbook to a T.

With nothing in the form of a meaningful plot, the attention then turns to the card battles whose flaws have only been exacerbated in this iteration of the show. Like previous entries, the rules are never explained even in passing, lending no sense of flow in the battles and characters constantly make moves that feel like cheating.

DIVA(A)LIVE brings nothing of note for anyone. It fails as an idol story, it fails as a TCG show, and it fails as a “WIXOSS” entry. The only good thing to come out of this is that I can finally stop hoping for an unexpected gem like Selector Infected. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Not recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

Kemono Jihen

Kemono Jihen

Studio: Ajia-do Animation Works
Director: Masaya Fujimori
Main Voice Actors: Natsumi Fujiwara (Kabane), Junichi Suwabe (Inugami), Kana Hanazawa (Inari)

Kemono Jihen borrows heavily from the most popular shonen and young adult franchises of the past few decades. There’s a heavy helping of Naruto and Harry Potter in plot construction and characterizations, and there’s a sprinkle of Tokyo Ghoul in its conceit. The series does nothing original and yet, Kemono Jihen is still worthwhile.

The series follows fledgling badass Kabane as he goes from town pariah to teenage detective. It sounds corny, and it kind of is, but there is heart nonetheless. Kabane is a half-ghoul and an outcast when he is discovered by a paranormal investigator, Kohachi Inugami. Inugami sees potential in Kabane, so he adopts the boy and shows him that he is not alone for there is an entire underground society of supernatural beings. From there, the series, as of now, unfolds in a predictable manner with obligatory plot twists and stereotypes. However, the banter is fun and the story is quickly paced. Over time the show could hit a boring grind but, as of now, it’s a fun diversion and worth a look if you enjoy the shonen genre. (Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Funimation

Heaven’s Design Team

Heavens Design Team

Studio: Asahi Production
Director: Souichi Masui
Main Voice Actors: Junya Enoki (Shimoda), Yumi Hara (Ueda), Ryouta Takeuchi (Unabara), Naomi Oozora (Meido), Daisuke Kishio (Kanamori)

I want you to think back to when you were learning about evolution in high school Biology class. Now think of a way to turn that segment into an anime. Heaven’s Design Team is probably what you ended up thinking of.

The world has been created but god still needs to populate it with creatures, so he outsources that work to another company to do it for him. The colorful cast of contractors is at the whims of their unreasonable client’s requests such as “an animal that lives on the water but is bad at swimming.” The whole show is a lovely lesson on the wonders of nature and just how incredible some animals are to function the way they do. From the ears of an elephant acting as heatsinks, to fur of otters acting as life vests, to the finger bones of bats providing more flight control — it’s downright incredible what evolution has thought of.

On the other end is what evolution didn’t think of, or maybe tried but failed to conjure. Heaven’s Design Team demonstrates through trial-and-error why mythical creatures like unicorns, pegasi, and Cerberus could never actually exist in real life and the process is hysterical.

For any biology nerds like myself, this show is a must-watch. For everyone else, it’s still a delightful ride that you’ll pick up some cool animal trivia from. Also, the OP is easily the catchiest earworm of the season, hands down. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Recommended

Watch on Crunchyroll

Otherside Picnic

Otherside Picnic

Studio: Liden Films and Felix Film
Director: Takuya Satō
Main Voice Actors: Yumiri Hanamori (Sorawo), Ai Kayano (Toriko)

Otherside Picnic opens with protagonist Sorawo Kamikoshi trapped in a puddle as she narrates her depressed existence. Her narration hits many a cliché but the imagery accompanying it evokes such wonder and dread that her words become imbued with immense feeling. It’s compelling stuff and it becomes even more intriguing once we find out that Sorawo is actually in another world, dubbed the “Otherside.” We never know why Sorawo ended up on the Otherside but once there she is saved by another girl named Toriko Nishina, who is looking for a friend.

The series never tries to explain the Otherside and the beguiling mystery of what it is keeps the show interesting even when everything else begins to fall apart. The relationship between the girls is generic yuri fare, the monster design is hit and miss, and the show often drags due to meandering pacing. But despite these issues, I still want to watch the series because the Otherside is so eerie. Rumors and supernatural legends may be the result of the Otherside’s influence on the human mind, or it may be the physical manifestation of human nightmares: it’s wonderfully unclear. So, while I cannot exactly recommend Otherside Picnic, I can’t not recommend it either. By season’s end, the show may emerge a winner, warts and all, or it could tank. Either way, I intend to find out. (Nicholas Straub)

Rating: Wait and See

Watch on Funimation

Uma Musume: Pretty Derby Season 2

Uma Musume Season 2

Studio: Studio Kai
Director: Kei Oikawa
Main Voice Actors: Machico (Tokai Teiou), Saori Oonishi (Meijiro McQueen)

The Pretty Derby is back and it’s… pretty much identical to what it was before. We got our horse girls, we got our races, and we got our totally-not-out-of-place idol concerts. What more could you want?

The new season picks up right where the first left off with Team Spica continuing to make a name for itself. Instead of focusing on hot newcomer Special Week, though, the spotlight falls on veterans Tokai Teio and Meijiro McQueen. Besides the protagonist swap, the show is exactly how we knew it from the first season. Races are run, rivalries made, and dreams are crushed and fulfilled; it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The designs of newer horse girls are flashy and cute, though, and have no problem serving their purpose and watchable advertisements for the upcoming mobile gacha game.

Uma Musume is the definition of harmless fluff with zero substance. It’s exactly what it says on the tin and sometimes this kind of fluff is just what someone is looking for. Races can have a welcome amount of tension in them but at the end of the day we’re really just here to see cute girls dress up in cute outfits and on that front, Uma Musume delivers. (Matt Ponthier)

Rating: Indifferent

Watch on Crunchyroll

Written By

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. You can follow more of his work at his blog and budding YouTube channel below.

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