First Impressions Winter 2021 Part 1

New year, new anime! 2020 is finally behind us and 2021 has made it’s triumphant debut, right? RIGHT?! Okay, maybe this year hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start we’d all been hoping for, but at least we’re making baby steps forward. We’re still in Lockdown here in the UK and while the cabin fever is setting in all over again, there are some things to keep me going. Most of them happen to be the host of new anime I’ve been eagerly awaiting this season, so let’s cut to the chase and bring on the first impressions!

Attack on Titan Final Season

The age of the Titans looks to finally be drawing to its close. For years Marley has relied upon the might of the devilish creatures to bolster its military power, but modern technology is quickly catching up. Soon a Titan might not even be a guarantee of victory. There is only one hope for the country, they must once again attack the devils of Paradis Island and reclaim the Founding Titan, but they’re not the only ones making plans. As young Eldians like Gabi and Falco train for the day when they will inherit a Titan themselves, the cycle of violence and hatred that started centuries ago is still continuing on. Is there any way to stop it, or will yet more lives be crushed beneath it’s wheel?

Well, it took us a while, but we’re finally here! The final season of Attack on Titan! Personally I’m excited. Yes, the series has switched studios and there are few things giving me pause story-wise, but overall this is still the same harrowing, gut-punching series that I’ve come to love. I mean any series that can dredge up so much palpable dread just from a couple of characters sitting in a room and talking has to be doing something right. That being said, I’m in two minds with the sudden time skip. I’m certainly enjoying seeing Marley and getting to know how things are across the sea, but it feels like a lot of our old cast have changed with no real indication as to why or how. I mean I barely recognised Eren and while I’m intrigued to find out how that came about I’d much rather have seen the development than deal with the mystery. I have no idea how this series is going to end, but then this show has presented such a bleak situation I have no idea how anyone can reach a happy ending. Still, I’ve come this far and I’m in it for the long haul now.

EX-ARM

The year is 2030 and Japan is facing an all-new kind of arms race. Technology far beyond the comprehension of humans, known as EX-ARMS, have fallen into the hands of criminals and fanatics and its up to the police to track them down before a disaster occurs. One such officer on the case is Minami Uezono, helped by her android partner, Alma, and an EX-ARM containing the brain of a high schooler, she’ll do what she has to keep Japan safe! But how did Akira Natsume’s brain end up in an EX-ARM? And was he really responsible for the devastation that swept Japan years ago?

Ugh. That’s really all I have to say about this series. I normally give series the usual three episode try before giving my first impressions, but in this case I bailed partway through episode two. I just…I just couldn’t take it any more. This show is bad, one of the worst productions I’ve seen in recent memory and it’s not even in a fun way. It literally hurts to watch this show. I hate bashing on animators, it’s a really hard profession and I take my hat off to anyone who’s willing to put themselves through the ringer for their art like that. At the same time this is a professional production and this show just doesn’t look professional. The characters are all so stiff and lifeless, that’s when they’re even animated in the same style and it doesn’t look as if two different series have been smashed together. I’d say it looks like a student film at best, but frankly that’s an insult to students. The writing isn’t much better either. Just avoid this one or if you want to see precisely how bad it is, check it out, but you’ve been warned.

Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town?

Lloyd is considered the weakest person in his village, he can’t even catch one of the local rabbits! Still, it’s his dream to become a cool soldier one day, just like the hero in his favourite book, and so he sets out to the Capital to join the army. What Lloyd doesn’t quite realise is that he’s grown up around some of the most powerful people on the continent, making him far stronger than anyone in the town he’s just moved to! Not that he’s noticed, but other people certainly have!

Comedy is all about timing and that’s something this series understands very well. Whether it’s building up a punchline like Lloyd winding up to punch a moron who’s giving him a free shot, or jumping out of a wardrobe and surprising you like Marie’s teacher, this show knows what it’s doing. It also helps that this series has more than one type of joke on offer, of course there’s the main course of how oblivious Lloyd is when he never recognises his own strength, or in watching people react to his strength. However there’s also the many, many crazy people that surround Lloyd so far in his adventures, or the myriad of unusual yet effective curses that get put on Marie. I love all of these characters, Lloyd is a sweet summer child that I just want to protect, but everyone else is a lot of fun to be around. I’m also impressed at the amount of world building the series has managed to fit in so far, episode three did feel rushed to a degree, but we’ve developed back stories for several characters and built an interesting conflict. I do prefer the comedy in this series to its more serious side, but I’m more than willing to stick around for these characters.

Otherside Picnic

Moments from death, Sorawo is saved by the mysterious Toriko in the bizarre world of the Otherside. Together they decide to explore this strange and often frightening place they’ve found, where folklore and urban legends seem to come to life around them. Of course their adventures come at a cost, both of them experiencing physical changes after only their first encounter! Sorawo’s eyes are now different colours giving her the ability to see more than what it there, while Torkio’s hand is now translucent allowing her to grapple with things of the Otherside. Together they hope to earn a little money and maybe even find some clues to the whereabouts of Toriko’s friend and former mentor, but whatever they find these trips certainly don’t fit any definition of ‘picnic’ that I know of!

Seriously, I have no idea why this series is called ‘Otherside Picnic’, these adventures have been anything but! The Elevator Girl almost gave me a heart attack in episode three, I’ll tell you this if I found a portal to the Otherside I’d leave as quickly as possible and never go back! Still, that aside, I am enjoying this series. Both Toriko and Sorawo are fun protagonists, Sorawo may complain a bit much and Toriko is beyond oblivious, but I’m enjoying their friendship and watching it develop. There’s a clear arc for both of these characters, and possibly a little potential romance but maybe that’s just me hoping, they do make a cute couple! The various yokai we’ve met so far are also fun, even if we don’t learn all that much about them at least they make for some striking visuals. As I said I’m enjoying this series and I’m more than looking forward to where this takes us.

Gekidol

Five years after a mysterious event caused cities and districts around the globe to disappear, life has very much returned to normal in Tokyo. For the young Seria her only concern is her newfound love for acting ever since she saw a performance using the latest 3D holographic technology. Then when she comes across a small stage troupe called Alice in Theatre, she can’t help but join and discover she has an unusual talent for mimicking any performance she sees! Even with that skill though, she still has a lot to learn and maybe at some point they’ll even get around to addressing the giant hole in the middle of the city!

I don’t want to write off a whole genre, but maybe idol shows just aren’t for me. I hate saying that because over the years I’ve tried so many different genres that I wouldn’t have even touched a decade ago and found shows that I genuinely love and adore. I’ve yet to find an idol show though and I really thought this one was in with a chance. I mean it’s categorised as also being a sci-fi show and a good way to get me interested in something is to bolt on some sci-fi or fantasy elements. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t know how to deal with those elements. The characters are all fine, the performances are fine, and the animation is fine, but what I’m intrigued by in this show is just point-blank ignored episode after episode. A whole section of the city just up and vanished and no one addresses it outside of a teacher giving a history lesson! I can feel myself struggling to pay attention with this show so, yeah, I think I’m out on this one.

Hortensia SAGA

When one of the Dukes of Hortensia suddenly turns on the King and murders him, transforming into a werewolf in the process, the stage is set for a time of upheaval and strife. Thankfully the country’s princess managed to escape, now going by Marius and disguised as a man, he serves as squire to local Duke Alfred, who also lost his father in the attack. Together these two will stand at the centre of the coming storm, but they have more to worry about than rival states and Marius’ younger brother being in the hands of the Pope. Monsters straight out of myth have suddenly began appearing across the land with no known cause. Dark times lie ahead for Hortensia and it’ll take everything Marius and Alfred have just to survive it.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good fantasy series, heck even a half-decent one will get a thumbs up from me. Give me knights in shiny armour, some swords clashing and a helping of monsters and intrigue and I’m yours. Hortensia SAGA so far has given me all of that, even if I would qualify it more in the half-decent camp. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about this series, most of it’s elements and character are fairly well-trodden tropes, but there’s nothing really bad about it either. The good guys are chivalrous and noble, the religious leader is clearly evil and up to something and outside of a giant with spider legs I’ve not seen any overly creative monsters. What does have my attention is the whole Marius situation, partly because of the whole gender angle. I mean we were introduced to them as the princess, but since then they’ve presented as male, they’re referred to as male and generally acts like a different person. I guess I’m just hoping this gets explored at some point and isn’t just ignored up to the point where their past is revealed.

Heaven’s Design Team

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. He followed that by creating light and the oceans and the land. All that was left to make was the many varied and wondrous creatures that would inhabit the world, but, as it turns out, all this creating lark is really hard and tiring. So God decided to take the rest of the day off and subcontract his work out to a design team, Heaven’s Design Team you might say. No matter the request, no matter how vague or nonsensical, they will do their very best to meet their client’s needs, even if some of the designers have some odd foibles.

Considering this is coming out in the same season as Cells at Work 2 and Cells at Work: Code Black, part of me wants to make some comment about the rise of educational shows. Still, when educational shows are this fun and entertaining then it doesn’t really leave any room for complaint does it? While I will continually mock this series for how lazy it makes God sound (speaking as an agnostic here), I am having a lot of fun with this series. It packs a lot of information into each episode, some of which I really didn’t need to know, and presents it in an engaging and colourful way. Cells at Work does a better job of getting me invested in its characters, but I do enjoy the various personalities of the design team and how they bounce off of one another. I just wish the characters didn’t feel quite so one note, but it’s only been three episodes so far so we’ll see how that develops. If you’re after weird animal factoids and colourful animation then I can’t recommend this enough. Check it out.

And we’ll leave it there for this week. Next week, we must protect eggs with traumatised kids inside, follow one spider’s desperate struggle for survival and head to an underground skateboarding competition to learn how it’s different from snowboarding. There was something else as well wasn’t there, what was it? Oh right, The Promised Neverland is back!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

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