Spring 2021 Anime First Impressions

The winter 2021 anime season feels a bit like life in general: Things are starting to get back to normal. Many delayed series are finally airing both among the host of sequels about to stream and brand new shows as well. And so, as usual, that means there are anime we think we’ll know, whether because of a previous cour or the source material, and originals we may discover later. To get a bit of a head start, I recommend you check out our season preview post—but read it soon, for the new season is upon us!

And continue to check back with this post as the new series air. We’ll be adding links to our first impression posts and giving even further thoughts below. We’d love to hear your feedback, too, so let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section.

86 Eighty-SixBakuten!!Burning KabaddiCombatants Will Be DispatchedDon’t Toy with Me, Miss NagatoroDragon Goes House-HuntingFarewell, My Dear CramerHigehiroI’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My LevelJoran The Princess of Snow and BloodKoikimoLet’s Make a Mug TooMars RedNomad: Megalo Box 2ODDTAXIPretty Boy Detective ClubThe Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent!Seven Knights Revolution: Hero SuccessorSHADOWS HOUSESSSS.DynazenonSuper CubThose Snow White NotesTokyo RevengersVivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-The Way of the HousehusbandThe World Ends with YouTo Your Eternity

86 Eighty-Six

First Impression: Twwk

There’s also enough joy here in varying personalities to lead the series away from complete death and hopelessness, with a centering, it seems, on the relationship between Lena and Spearhead’s lead, Undertaker. All this could result in a hot mess, but the well-considered structure and world building of episode one have me excited at the possibilities of this series.

cajk2

Please pardon me while I history-geek out: the protagonist’s name, Vladilena, is the key to unlocking this series. It’s the feminine form of a popular Soviet name from the 1920s-40s, which is a portmanteau of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Soviet Union. Her last name, Miritsé, is a Japanese rendering of Militsa/Milica, a girl’s name popular in the Balkans (e.g. Milla Jovovich) that means “dear” but is also evocative of militsiia, or “police”. The flag of the state Lena fights for is likewise reminiscent of a combination of two of Russia’s pre-revolutionary flags, but with the white English Rose of York in the crest rather than the Russian two-headed eagle. Then there’s the sharp contrast between the top ranked and lowest districts of the land (Hunger Games!), which pits the moral depravity (drunkenness, infidelity, lack of discipline, and let’s not forget Uncle Jérôme’s willingness to essentially throw his young niece under a bus) of the upper echelons of society against the homey, genuine community—complete with a cute cat and delicious real food!—of the 86es. This here’s a class-based social critique if ever I’ve seen one. Will Vladilena and her squadron Spearhead (hehe) the Revolution? Can’t wait to find out!

Gaheret

San Magnolia looks amazing. In some ways, it reminded me of Italy in the age of Napoleon. In other ways, it has Greek city-state imaginery, with the personified Magnolia everywhere. It is as if 86 had found a way to bring all the interesting moral issues concerning ius in bello, the law of war, together at once. Ender´s Game young geniuses doing remote control war and suffering from the effects? Republic versus Empire? A “dronified” army losing the classical military virtues? Secretly machiavellian war politics? A multi-racial community in which there is racism both among the troops and (presumably) among the top authorities who are conscious of what is happening? A Napoleonic code for officials at odds with the actual technical advances are used in the battlefield? Those are all fascinating questions. We will see how they are played.

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Bakuten!!

First Impression: Gaheret

“…I´ll note that Bakuten!! is, from now, somewhere between the volleyball of Haukyuu!! and the kyudo/archery of Tsurune. And I love Haikyuu!!, but perhaps this is a little too close.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Burning Kabbadi

First Impression: Gaheret

“And yet, at this point everything, from Iura’s shady schemes (“Don’t you think that people that are good at raiding are a little twisted?”), to Yoigoshi’s controlling personality, the old gym, the two-years obssesion with muscles (and what’s with Date’s white eyes?), the red eyes, the “kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi” chant, the unexplained hospitalization and mad demeanor of the captain, seems quite sinister. To be honest, it reminded me of the self-destructive boxing of Robert Wise’s 1949 The Set-Up. It may be all a twist (and the enthusiasm of Azemichi points in that direction), but right now, were I Yoigoshi, I would run from Kabaddi and never look back. As I’m having trouble connecting with the characters and the sport, I think this is it for me, for now at least. Good luck, Tatsuya, and don’t break a leg.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Combatants Will Be Dispatched

Combatants Will Be Dispatched

First Impression: NegativePrimes

“Although Combatants Will Be Dispatched! is a riff on the standard isekai model, and thus largely played for laughs, it’s the hints of the deeper world and story that have secured my initial interest. If you’re a sucker for isekai like yours truly, then this may well be a show for you. (Do be advised that there is a LOT of sexy fanservice humor, if you’re keen to avoid it.)”

JeskaiAngel

I concur with my esteemed colleague. This episode had some genuinely amusing moments, but relied too much on fanservice & sexual humor for my tastes. It’s hard to laugh when one is squirming and thinking “Ugh, that’s awkward and crude.” If you’re less…well, prudish than I am, you may well enjoy this series. At times it reminded me of World Conquest Zvezda Plot, an absurd anime that still had more fanservice than I prefer, but didn’t go as far as Combatants Will Be Dispatched does.

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro

First Impression: Gaheret

“At first, I thought that maybe the distortion on the protagonist’s part was so great that her behaviour shouldn’t be taken literally as shown (those demon faces), but it is not so. When the traumatized guy, in his overly formal way, says to Nagatoro that her behaviour bothers him, but not as much as that of the other bullies, and thus, he is willing to accept it, I got an uneasy feeling. Were he somebody I knew, I’d be very worried about him. I won’t go on watching this one.”

Samuru

As Gaheret mentioned, I didn’t like the bullying that was going on in this anime. I also did not agree with the willingness of the main character to be pushed around by this girl who was teasing him, and I would even say sexually harassing him. It became somewhat difficult to watch by the end of the episode because I wanted to jump through the screen, shake the guy around a little and tell him to get away from that girl, or at least defend him and tell her to take a hike! I’m more confrontational about these situations, so it bugged me to see him treated that way. I don’t know if this changes in later episodes, but I won’t be keeping up to find out.

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Dragon Goes House-Hunting

First Impression: stardf29

“It’s one of those shows that ranks highly on one very important metric: the number of screencappable moments. Overall, this looks to be one of those really fun shows that you want at least one of every season, where silliness and laughs are 100% guaranteed drops. I definitely will go further with this series to see just how the ever-troublesome task of finding a place of residence goes for the denizens of a fantasy world.”

JeskaiAngel

This was much funnier than I expected. The description left me with low expectations, then after seeing some of screenshots stardef29 posted, I gave it a try. It seems to be the latest “makes fun of RPG / fantasy tropes” anime, and since I usually enjoy those, I’ll probably end up sticking with this one.

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Farewell, My Dear Cramer

First Impression: Cajk2

“In all, Farewell, My Dear Cramer promises to be a delightful homage to the beautiful game and the millions of girls and young women whose lives have been enriched by it. I for one will be prepping my popcorn and sports drink for a weekly installment of footy fun!”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway

First Impression: Samuru

“Albeit, Yoshida wants to sleep with a woman pretty desperately, but his actions toward Suya indicates that he isn’t some terrible guy. I am interested to see how their story plays out, even though episode one doesn’t stand out for any particular reason.”

stardf29

Yeah, you can breathe a sigh of relief that Yoshida has no intention of doing anything untoward to Sayu. As much as Sayu might have done things in order to crash at guys’ houses before, Yoshida makes it clear that those guys were utter trash, and Yoshida, for his part, wants to at least treat her with basic human decency. The result is surprisingly wholesome, as Sayu starts to understand what it’s like to actually be given basic respect, while Yoshida… gets his apartment cleaned up. While there’s definitely the concern that this show will at some point go the romance route for the leads in the end, at least for the moment, I would like to see more of this story with a more nuanced relationship between Yoshida and Sayu.

Josh

Honestly, the one thought that went ringing through my head when I watched episode one was “Please don’t be like the Usagi Drop manga…Please don’t be like the Usagi Drop manga…Please don’t be like the Usagi Drop manga…Please FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IN THIS WORLD don’t be like the Usagi Drop manga…” The premise of this show really has the potential to be either heartwarming and endearing, and I think I’ll keep up with this one to see which way it goes, but thanks to Usagi Drop’s ending, I’m gonna be on Red Alert this whole time. Though props to the main lead–he decides to take in this girl instead of letting her roam the streets doing who knows what to get a roof over her head. Not many guys will be willing to do that. I tip my hat to you, Yoshida. (PLEASE DON’T BE LIKE THE USAGI DROP MANGA…)

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level

First Impression: stardf29

“It is not just a slice-of-life story, but also a story about how overwork can be deadly to our well-being (sometimes literally!), and the importance of working in a way that is both meaningful and healthy. With that theme in the background, this is a solid adaptation of a light novel about a fantasy one can actually make a reality: having a good work-life balance.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Joran the Princess of Snow and Blood

First Impression: Cajk2

“The art style shifts for the transformation sequences and subsequent battles, with the energetic raw linework and visible paintbrush strokes of the backgrounds lending the animation such dynamism that it makes you want to pick up a 10B pencil and start carving out dark confident lines of your own…”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Koikimo

First Impression: Twwk

“The shows seems to not only want audiences to accept the possibility of RyoChika, but (and also demonstrated by the fairly serious OP and ED, which are both kickin’ by the way) to embrace it as the ultimate goal, as if to say, “We’ve got plenty of romance to go along with the comedy.” The latter seems like it’s going to be really strong, but the former? It’ll be quite interesting to see this series balance a romance of this type between sweet and “creepy.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Let’s Make a Mug Too

First Impression: stardf29

“In the quest to make a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show about everything, pottery and mug-making might seem hard to do anything too special with. Sure, you can get in plenty of educational info about pottery, but beyond that, this show on the outset might have seemed like it would just be a harmless but largely forgettable cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. So what does this show have to be a bit more interesting and worth watching? Answer: a surprising amount of sentimentality.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Mars Red

First Impression: Cajk2

“The art features the kind of ultra fine linework popular on Pixiv these days and on display in Japan Sinks: 2020, with fairly understated flat coloring and watercolor backdrops. It’s moody and a touch old-fashioned in a way that is well-suited to its setting in 1923 Tokyo, and to the story’s theatrical roots. That’s right, rather than originating from a manga or light novel, Mars Red is an adaptation of a theatrical reading. Expect layers of meaning, plays within plays, and metaphor and symbolism galore!”

Twwk

I’m glad I made it to the end of episode one, which started in a “lovely but sleepy” manner before ending with some subtle information drops and a surprise revelation, including an intriguing ED. I tend to have near-zero interest in military-related series, vampire anime, and Taisho Era shows, but Mars Red has me intrigued. Besides the manner of story and the potential for metaphor and symbolism, as stated by Cajk2, I also found the episode to have a throwback feel, partially due to the animation but also because of the character design and slow tempo. That tone, along with Junichi Suwabe’s always welcome vocals as the lead character, have me inclined to check out another episode.

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Nomad: Megalo Box 2

First Impression: Samuru

“I was a big fan of the first season of Megalo Box, from the animation to the music and character development, but this one seems to have turned it all upside down. What happened to Joe’s friends, his manager, and Yuri, whom he became friends with at the end of season one? Why is still fighting in underground rings when he should be in a more professional competition? Did he lose badly to the new champion, or was there some other tragedy that occurred? Yes, I have lots of questions, and there’s no doubt I’ll be tuning in each week to discover the answers and see if Joe can arise again.”

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Streaming on Funimation.

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ODDTAXI

First Impression: Twwk

“Truly, it feels a little Larry David, which also extends to the cast themselves. More “usual” are the characters connected to mysterious elements, like a secretive alpaca nurse and a crooked cop, but the rest of the cast could be lifted from a “show about nothing” as well—a gorilla doctor who is a bit insecure, a (monkey?) janitor who lies about his salary on dating apps, and Odokawa himself, who is dry and hilarious, and it seems misunderstood as well…He is a fantastic lead, and the screencap-worthy moments in episode one alone are off the hook, but with a story in tow as well about a missing girl, there’s more here than just the banter, which might have been enough.”

cajk2

Twwk’s review is spot on: this is a clever, more adult offering from Pokemon studio OLM. NegativePrimes is also right: these people are only animals in Odokawa’s head. The hipster hippopotamus? The police dogs? The cute little neko-girl? And to top it all off, Odokawa is a walrus? Isn’t there a trippy Beatles song about this (goo goo g’joob!)? There’s a lot of mystery and interesting detail here, but I also get an unsettling vibe from it (as with the Beatles song), almost a bit sinister. I’m going to put this one on the shelf for now and maybe pick it up mid-season if I hear good things about where it goes.

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Pretty Boy Detective Club

First Impression: Cajk2

“The opening monologue makes it clear this is neither a typical shoujo nor a straightforward send-up of the genre—and that’s a good thing in my books. Instead, we’re treated to a surprisingly self-reflexive episode that engages with the tropes of the shoujo and coming-of-age school drama genres in a genuinely thoughtful way, particularly in the closing dialogue between Doujima and the epicurean pretty boy, Fukuroi.”

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Streaming on Funimation.

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The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent!

First Impression: Jeskai Angel

“I felt like this episode skipped over stuff a bit too much. I’m also concerned about the subtitles, which were kind of wonky at points. Sometimes it was just weird, such as spelling “Sir” (like you’d call a knight) as “Ser.” However, there was also a glaring typo: “Save travels to you!” obviously should have read “safe.” On the bright side, I found the visuals quite nice. I love the novels on which this show is based, so I think I’m likely to keep watching, albeit with concerns.”

cajk2

Mikasa Ackerman/Violet Evergarden seiyuu Ishikawa Yui. Fantasy slice-of-life at a measured pace with a hint of romance. Average-looking, grown adult woman protagonist who loves doing research. This series is speaking all the love languages. I am here for it!

stardf29

This was a fine adaptation of about the first quarter of the first volume, which is admittedly mainly exposition and not the most interesting content to begin with. Perhaps the most curious part of this episode, though, was that they didn’t show how people could check their numerical videogame-like stats. I wonder if this adaptation will try to avoid that element entirely because of it being “too cliched” or something.

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Seven Knights Revolution: Hero Successor

First Impression: Jeskai Angel

“Based on the show’s description, I expected it to be typical shounen fare, and the episode seemed to validate my suspicions. It checks all the boxes: young boy is determined to protect people, suddenly receives power, transforms, and fights a monster created by a cult that worships the “God of Destruction” (Seriously??? Come on people, at least give your evil deities names so they don’t seem so obviously generic!), and now he’ll be going to school and joining a band of heroes. If this sounds like your jam, I won’t judge you for watching…”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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SHADOWS HOUSE

First Impression: Thathilomgirl

“You might notice a lot of similarities to The Promised Neverland with this anime, from the Western-like setting, to the dark mystery of the story, to having female main characters in the series…It does somewhat fill the void that TPN left after its ending. However, another similarity that SH has with it is that they’re both animated by CloverWorks, and ever since what happened to TPN Season 2, I have been very worried that a similar fate would occur with SH, especially in regards to the pacing of the plot”

cajk2

Three words: Gothic mystery theatre. Three more: I love it! So many questions: why was Kate so quick to break Shadow House rules and dress Emilico in her clothes? Why does she have a makeup case and where does her makeover experience come from if she can’t use it on herself? To say I’m intrigued would be to say that shadows are dark. I’m expecting some interesting artistry of CloverWorks on this one as well, considering that shadow play and silhouettes are connected to the earliest roots of Art itself. 

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Streaming on Funimation and AnimeLab.

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SSSS.Dynazenon

First Impression: Cajk2

SSSS.Gridman carried one of the most powerful redemptive messages I’ve seen in anime, and I’m excited to see how SSSS.Dynazenon builds on it! If you’re someone who (like me before Gridman) doesn’t usually prioritise mecha on the anime watch list, this series may just be for you as it promises to be a character-driven story rather than merely a Michael Bay-esque parade of explosions and battle tech. Though the explosions are pretty cool too.”

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Super Cub

First Impression: Cajk2

“This episode was such a delight! It’s rather serious and earnest, but I have a feeling that this has been done deliberately in order to convey the full impact of the transformation that is taking place in Koguma’s life. It brings to mind the revolutionary influence of the invention and mass production of the bicycle on the lives of women across Europe and North America in the 1890s (the so-called “bicycle craze”), lending them both geographical and social mobility—just as the Super Cub promises to do for isolated Koguma.”

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Streaming on Funimation.

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Those Snow White Notes

First Impression: Twwk

“Excluding the final minute, which provides a most unexpected cliffhanger, episode one of this series felt like it could be a short film all on its own, telling a lovely and powerful story, one that managed to choke me up on several occasions while still lifting my spirit. That it could be so self-contained while at once needing to introduce an instrument that is, I’m supposing, incredibly uncool in this day and age, speaks to how strong the writing and production is for the series.”

cajk2

This reminds me so much of Chihayafuru, and not just because Arata’s VA from season 3 makes an “appearance” as our shamisen-playing protagonist’s older brother. Setsu himself is that same welcome type of earnest young person in search of his place in the world, who is nevertheless clear on his principles, which include respect for others and passion for the shamisen. That cliffhanger though! O.O Looking forward to the next episode. (May just have to rewatch all of Tokyo Lens’s videos on the shamisen in the meantime!)

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Tokyo Revengers

First Impression: Twwk

Tokyo Revengers feels a bit like a shonen ERASED, and thus not quite so heavy as that series, with a lead character who is suffering much like Satoru, but isn’t as intense or, well, responsible, which is why it may be perfect that this anime teams Takemichi with a character who is more serious and respectable. I’m absolutely ready to root for these two…”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-

First Impression: Jeskai Angel

“The opening episode has excellent pacing, neither too slow nor too fast. It also does a fine job of evoking a sense of mystery. I’ve mentioned the Terminator 2 echoes, but don’t mistake that for criticism. The movie is rightly considered a classic, and there’s nothing wrong with repurposing elements of its premise for use in an anime. I will definitely be watching the next episode.”

cajk2

This is not an idol show. It is a full-on sci-fi action series, with all the dark undertones and philosophical and moral quandaries that the genre implies these days. And I am here for it! I’m intrigued to see how the “singular mission” rule plays out. It seems pretty risky on the part of the AI programmers, considering that even the more robust Three Laws (Asimov) can be got around! How will Vivy/Diva navigate the conflict now that she’s being tasked with a second mission from the future? Was it this rule that was somehow corrupted in a century’s time to bring about the AI-pocalyse (nice neologism, Jeskai Angel!)? How could it prompt Diva to save lives, while leading all the other (future) AIs to destroy humanity? There’s something here about interpreting and applying “sacred texts” or “commandments” that could prove insightful as the series progresses. Also, by the end of episode 2 (thank you Funimation for the double-episode premiere!), Diva has become a Sarah Connor-level badass. Only more polite. Bring it on!

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Streaming on Funimation.

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The Way of the Househusband

First Impression: Twwk

“The gags hit wellnot quite the same as they do in the manga, which may have been the problem that led the animators to go this route in the first place—and had me absolutely cracking up, even as I watched in a public setting. The Roomba “episode” was my favorite (each true episode, which are about 16-18 minutes each, contains mini-episodes that match chapters in the manga)…but every other episode is hilarious as well, heightened by the foul language and frequency of violence, both of which continue to heighten that difference between Tatsu’s old life and new.”

cajk2

How J.C. Staff managed to make a Roomba look smug, I do not know, but it did and I died, and it’s going to be tough not to binge this show all in one go. Also, that cat is a thug. (PS Apparently, there’s a lot more swearing in the English dub than in the sub…)

Samuru

This is the funniest anime I have watched in many years! The animation takes a little to get used to, but I think it’s great since they have shorter scenes the comedic moments have to hit harder and they succeed. Like cajk2, I am going to binge the whole show and not take my finger off the print screen button, because there are too many funny moments to capture.

Josh

If “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” were an anime, this would be it. Unique in both the way it tells its story and the characters themselves, Househusband has the potential to be one of the funniest shows of the season, if not the entire year! The story itself is very funny, but when you add in a dub that lets the actors really shine combined with great writing, you have a show that just begs for your attention. Yes, there’s profanity, but this ain’t for kids, boys and girls, and we’re talking about a former Yakuza, so profanity is pretty much expected. If you’re looking for a good laugh, then you owe it to yourself to check this out.

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Streaming on Netflix.

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The World Ends with You The Animation

First Impression: Jeskai Angel

So yeah, it’s based on an old game. Not sure what else to say. The theme of trust and relationships has potential, and the episode gave off enough of a sense of mystery that I’ll at least check out the next episode.”

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Streaming on Funimation.

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To Your Eternity

First Impression: Negativeprimes

“Ok, it’s my fault. I knew what I was getting into. I’ve read the manga for To Your Eternity (by the same author as A Silent Voice) almost to its present chapter. And yet, Episode 1 moved me almost to tears.”

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Streaming on Crunchyroll.

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