Happy New Year, everyone! 2020 was tough for many folks, and while there are plenty of challenges ahead, we hope you all stay safe, healthy and happy in the coming year. Thank you for following along with us, and we look forward to seeing what fine shows we get to enjoy over the next several months!
|Scott – Red Awards|
|Best of 2021||Odd Taxi|
Odd Taxi is amazing, full stop. There’s a murderer on the loose, a crazed gunman, a yakuza turf war, an idol group trying to move up in a cutthroat environment, a pair of comedians falling on hard times, crooked cops… and the taxi driver navigating all of it one passenger at a time. If you like a story where every detail matters and you can endlessly speculate on what’s really going on – and be rewarded by the story for doing so – this is the one for you. Strongest possible recommendation.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2021||Sk8 the Infinity|
I wasn’t expecting too much from “skateboard sports anime”, but I was wrong. This show is great, and every character in it is great. Especially Adam, easily the best-dressed villain of the year as he sports a jazzed-up matador outfit and rides a skateboard with bull’s horns on it. The show has a lot of heart, and it’s clear there’s real passion for skateboarding here, even if it does get a little over the top at times.
|Worst of 2021||The Promised Neverland – Season 2|
Ugh. Enough has been said about the disastrous second season of Promised Neverland on the Internet already.
|Most Disappointing of 2021||Log Horizon – Season 3|
I was really excited for another season of Log Horizon, many years after the first two seasons. It even picked up right where the second season ended. And yet, I can’t really put my finger on it, but it wasn’t… fun. I couldn’t get into it the way I’d enjoyed the previous two seasons. It’s not bad, it’s just not great.
|Best Opening Theme Song||Wonder Egg Priority|
Few openings pluck at my emotions so quickly and easily as this one. Beautifully sung from the first note to the last. It doesn’t hurt that the show that goes with it was excellent also, though the ending suffered from the general problems plaguing the anime industry at the peak of Covid, and Clover Works especially..
|Most Beautiful Animation||Heike Monogatari|
It could be argued that Vivy Flourite Eyes’ Song has sharper animation, or that Shiroi Suna no Aquatope has cleaner animation, but Heike Monogatari’s animation is gorgeous in a way that feels richer than any other this season, especially its backgrounds.
|Best Concept and Execution||Vivy: Flourite Eyes’ Song|
An android must awaken at key points during history and attempt to change the outcome of a disastrous human-AI war, using timeline information sent back from the time of that war. But every change modifies the timeline in ways both subtle and obvious, and the final outcome is always in question. A well-constructed plot that doesn’t shy away from tragedy and keeps you engaged.
|Good Concept, Bad Execution||So I’m a Spider, So What?|
The idea of a class of students being isekai’d, and then awakening at different times, some of them as monsters and some as humans, and then being used as pawns in a larger clash of the major world powers – sounds really interesting, right? It is… but the show just cannot execute on this idea in a quality manner. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen animation this terrible, and the plot is far more confusing than it really needs to be.
|Best Slice of Life||Let’s Make a Mug Too!|
This charming show really makes me want to try making pottery, and also to visit the
Japanese city of Tajimi, so it’s really accomplishing everything it set out to do. The show has fun, light ten-minute episodes that are the perfect format for this genre.
|Most Fragmented Plot||Otherside Picnic|
I could never tell if Otherside Picnic was supposed to be plot-driven or vignette-style, and I’m unclear on if the show knew either. Even within episodes the rules, level of danger to the characters, and even simple things like where things are in relation to each other were never clear, and seemingly not in an intentional way. I didn’t hate the show, but I don’t think I’d watch more.
|Coziest Slow Life||I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out my Level|
The competition for this was surprisingly close this year, with Drug Store in Another World: The Slow Life of a Cheat Pharmacist, The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, and That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime – Slime Diaries all also in the running, but this show took the prize for me. Almost everything is pleasant, the pace is appropriately slow, and the characters are fun to watch.
|Most Technobabble||Godzilla Singular Point|
To be clear, technobabble isn’t always a bad thing, and Godzilla Singular Point is a perfect example. Whether our characters are trying to create an impossible material using time-traveling lasers or preparing to use the Orthogonal Diagonalizer to cut through dimensions, it’s always a fun ride.
|Best Shoujo||Kageki Shoujo!!|
With Fruits Basket ending this year, it was nice to see a new show taking the shoujou
mantle, and this show wears it well. An engaging tale of a new class of students at theater school, it found time to deal with some pretty impactful personal issues while also having a strong focus on the art of theater itself.
|Best Ad for a Videogame||The World Ends with You: The Animation|
The anime was a passable interpretation of the story, but boy did I want to replay The
World Ends with You as I watched this. Well timed with the Switch re-release and the PC release of a new game in this interesting setting.
|Most Bizarre||Sonny Boy|
Seemingly every episode of Sonny Boy changed everything – the scope, the rules of the world, the characters that mattered. It’s a show that asks a lot of you to fill in gaps yourself and try to head-canon how we got from one episode to the next. It’s the kind of show that’s impossible to summarize, and I can’t even say that the plot, in the end, is a good one. But it’s certainly unique, and worth a watch if you want to feel your brain stretch to comprehend what’s going on.
|Best Music||Visual Prison|
This show about Visual-K vampire boy bands singing for the judgement of the Scarlet Moon is a lot to take in. It helps that every episode features at least one song, almost all of them new, and all of them good. It’s worth watching just for the music, and there are plenty of other things to recommend it on top of that.
|Most Comeuppance||The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!|
I’ve never seen such swift and immediate comeuppance delivered to a character than to Jahy. Every single time she’ll strike a haughty pose, tell whoever is around that the latest request made of her, or problem looming in front of her, is beneath her, and WHAM comeuppance hits her like a heat-seeking missile. It’s good that she does change over the course of the show, or it would feel a little too mean, but as it is Jahy is a lot of fun to watch.
|Most Cute Animals||Shiroi Suna no Aquatope|
For any other show, it would feel like cheating to get to show off so many cute penguins and other sea critters, but Aquatope, a show about running an aquarium, can definitely get away with it. There’s plenty more to recommend about the show besides just the cute animals, but they’re a nice addition.
|Su – Green Awards|
|Best of 2021||Odd Taxi|
It really wasn’t a contest here. Given the incredible characters, the top-notch writing/dialogue and the well crafted original mystery there was no other choice other than Odd Taxi. Right from episode one you are hooked and the show never lets up in how fascinating it is. Odd Taxi is one of those shows that transcends the “anime” label. It can be enjoyed by anyone, so I highly recommend it to even non-anime watchers. It’s so rare that a show takes a chance like this and avoids all the moe teen drama that permeates the medium. Do yourself a favor and watch this if you missed out on it during its cour.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2021||Godzilla Singular Point|
Godzilla has an odd presence nowadays. While it was originally created as a somber metaphor of how Japan viewed the atomic bomb, it has since morphed into an iconic Hollywood monster. If you told me I’d get a physics fueled mystery puzzle from a show with “Godzilla” in the freaking titled, I’d have called you crazy. While lacking in character development, I was hooked onto Singular Point after a few episodes and every week it felt like I needed a notebook to keep track of what was going on. This show has “second watch” written all over it and I was impressed at how complex the writing was.
|Worst of 2021||The Promised Neverland – Season 2|
Good gracious Charlie Brown…
What in the hell happened to you Promised Neverland? This season started out strong and I was eager to find out where Emma and Company were going to end up post-Grace Field. Smash cut to the middle of the season and EVERYTHING GOES TO HELL IN AN ATOMIC CLOUD. All the plot is garbage (look, we cured Norman’s cancer!), all the characters act in nonsensical ways, and the final episode was so bad that the writers refused to have their names show up on it. Oh well…
At least we got Sistas with machine guns…
I’m just going to remind everyone that my husband walked out on this show in the last two episodes and left me to deal with this on my own because it was our Rolling Review choice. Marriage…Breakingly…Bad…
This show was an absolute dumpster fire. Easily the worst of the year.
|Most Disappointing of 2021||Wonder Egg Priority|
I was SOOOOO addicted to this show. Every week I waited with baited breath for what was going to happen to the Warriors of Eros in the Land of Psychological Trauma. Not only was the art absolutely stunning, the music and storytelling were equally incredible. Clearly the AAA squad at Cloverworks got this one and left the D squad with Promised Neverland.
It all proved to be too much though, as the plot continued to add more mysteries than it solved and the Special Episode intended to close out the series was a complete bust. The show got too ambitious for its own good and never truly delivered on all the ideas it had put forth. I was unbelievably disappointed in how it all turned out and in contrast to what I said on the podcast, I recommend steering clear of this. You will only lead yourself to sadness watching all that potential implode.
|Highest Production Values|
Best Original Storytelling
|Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song|
Wonder Egg Priority was gorgeous to behold but I believe it’s Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song that wins the day in the production category. Studio Wit has an an incredible eye for detail and composition (those fight scenes were AWESOME) and not only was this show beautiful start to finish, it also had moments where the art broke into painstakingly detailed highly rendered shots. Since Vivy is a Singer, the music is excellent and all of this is complimented by the solid story. It’s rare that I get hooked onto something so depressing.
Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song is not for the faint of heart. It challenges what it means to have purpose, delivers a compelling set of leads I desperately routed for, drags your feelings through the mud to the bitter end, and ultimately made me remember why I got into this medium in the first place. It’s a beautifully written (an original story to boot!), animated, and produced show that would have won best of the year for me had Odd Taxi not existed.
|Best in Sho(ujo)||Kageki Shoujo!!|
Looking at Kageki Shoujo!! I expected very little. I have a comfort zone of “girls going to a school to do a thing related to the performing arts” (this isn’t as niche as it sounds), so I was prepped for a drama with a bunch of common tropes disguised as characters. What I got, was a drama with amazing characters that display complex identities who drew me deep into the world of women-only performance theater. Each girl in this show is a well realized individual and the seemingly simple, attractive art really sells the feel of the show. Not to mention those gorgeous pieces of art in the ED theme song that I want on my wall ASAP. I cannot wait for more of this show so I can root for Tall Girl, Ai, and the rest of this wonderful cast.
|Most WTF Moment||Joran – The Princess of Blood and Snow|
Joran is like a train wreck combined with plane crash that’s wrapped in a hot mess. You cannot look away. What starts off as a seemingly simple revenge tale set in Edo era Japan, morphs into a completely nonsensical jaunt through a series of events with no breaks in between and cliffhangers abound. The whole show is like a bus with the brakes cut and the speed set to “faster than a bat outta hell”. By the end of the show I was laughing and yelling at the screen at the same time. It’s a crying shame it had great art, and a good OP song by Raise-a-Suilien. Since this award is called “Most WTF moment” you may be asking yourself, “But Su! What’s the one moment that earns this award?!” Well friends…
It’s the moment I finished Joran and realized I had actually watched this whole damn disaster.
|Most Emotionally Beautiful||Fruits Basket – The Final|
Oh Fruits Basket… you certainly were a journey. A journey I feel privileged to have gone on and I’ll restate here what I said in the podcast. This show really is a work of art. Not in the way that “all anime is art because it’s animated”. In a special way where each and every person can look at it and get something personal from it. I don’t say this lightly. I loved all these characters and watching them grow and progress was such a emotional roller-coaster. Did I cry in the end when I saw all my babies end up happy? Yes, yes I did.
|Most Likely To Make Me Care About History||Heike Monogatori|
I didn’t care a lick about History in High School. It was all names, dates and facts about old white dudes, so I thankfully levered my solid memory to get A’s, but never retained anything. Heike Monogatori is the type of history I desperately wish I was taught. History is made by individuals, all fighting for one or numerous goals. The trials and tribulations of the human race is the foundation of how we live our lives today and the structure by which stories are created. Only now in my late (not to be disclosed age) am I appreciating the subject of history.
Heike introduces us to a family doomed to failure by way of hubris. As the story unfolds, we watch all the elements of family ties, betrayal, love, war, and honor collide in a way that tugs at the heart and made me want to read more about the history of this Japanese clan. There are no spark notes here. You need to keep track of a ton of similar names, shifting locations, and changing loyalties, but damn is it worth it!
|Most Likely To Make Me Live My Best Thug Life||Way of the House Husband|
I found this show hilarious. The many adventures of Tatsu and his yakuza fueled home life are adorable, and I am always in a good mood after watching this. The situation humor is brilliantly written and even though this show isn’t “animated” in the traditional sense, that never stopped it from being great. The short-form format made it so that the jokes were punchy, rapid, and never overstayed their welcome. Do I want to scowl at cabbage that’s on sale and tell it that it’s no longer “the bosses favorite due to its fall from grace?”. Abso-freaking-lutely.
|Honorable Mention||Evangelion 1.0+3.0 Thrice Upon a Time|
Evangelion is arguably the most influential anime of all time. It’s the show that fans young and old get obsessed with, and it drives them to think about their psyches as well as confront their flaws. It’s complex and deep without ever once insulting the viewer. It also, unbelievably, came from the mind of an incredibly depressed man. My husband found the original Eva to be so inspirational, that to this day he still talks about it, thinks about it and tries to capture small handfuls of its genius in his own writing.
I mention it here because even though I have issues with the rebuilds, I still appreciate everything that Evangelion brings to the table. It’s a reminder that inside of all of us is a story waiting to be told, if we are bold enough to take that first step. No matter how you feel about these movies, they are still Anno’s brain children and this award is just to say “Congratulations Anno” for finishing a project that clearly came from your heart. It inspires the rest of us to do the same.
|Su’s OP/ED Playlist of 2021||“Sing My Pleasure” (OP – Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song)|
“One Last Kiss” (ED – Evangelion 1.0+3.0 Thrice Upon a Time)
“Blizzard” (OP – Those Snow White Notes)
“Hoshi no Tabibito” (ED – Kageki Shoujo!!)
|Dan – Blue Awards|
|Best of 2021||Fruits Basket – The Final|
It’s rare for any series in any medium to get a real second chance, and even rarer for that remake to pay off so strongly. Fruits Basket finally got to deliver the ending fans had been waiting almost two decades for, and the finale was as emotionally charged and satisfying as one could hope for.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2021||Heaven’s Design Team|
This quirky series about animal biology was a lot funnier and more charming than I expected going in. Featuring angels outsourced by God to design and create all the creatures of the Earth, the cast are all trying to one-up their previous creations and meet the often obtuse requests of their client. Combining some snappy humor with genuinely interesting facts about the natural world makes for an entertaining little show, and worth a look if you need some light edu-tainment.
|Worst of 2021||Tokyo Revengers|
After the first season, I was compelled to keep watching Tokyo Revengers if only to see how the sudden escalation in the finale would pay off. The premise of Quantum Leaping back into the protagonist’s youth to prevent an escalating gang war is compelling, but that is where the show’s potential stops. Its core flaw is that Takemichi is a dopey, unengaging and obnoxious protagonist, which is compounded by lackluster character designs, stilted animation, and plot beats that rely on the entire cast being various flavors of dumbass. I’m sorry that I gave the show another chance.
|Most Disappointing of 2021||The Promised Neverland – Season 2|
The first season of Neverland was tense and gripping, though not without its flaws. Season 2 opens up the world to our characters only to reveal that it’s surprisingly dull and lacks any of the tension that kept the first one moving. Rushing the finale just adds insult to injury, and undercuts what could’ve been a darkly fascinating show.
|Trickiest to Recommend||Komi Can’t Communicate|
I really like a lot about this show, but it’s so steeped in stereotypical high school anime trappings that no amount of irony can completely remove that sense of cringe. The core characters of Komi and her friend, Tadano are fun to watch and have some great, heartwarming moments along with the rest of the kooky cast, but the constant background sleaze from some characters and the reliance on pointing out tropes as humor gets tiring. It’s still a fun show, but man, I don’t think I could ever recommend it to anyone who wasn’t already deep down the anime rabbit hole.
|Best Anthology||Star Wars: Visions|
It really seems like the best Star Wars stuff is coming from the side stories and spinoffs these days. Between The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch, we got some awesome worldbuilding beyond the realm of the Jedi and Sith. However, if you’re looking for more of those lightsaber-wielding heroes and villains, Visions offers a bunch of great, bite-sized stories in a variety of styles.
|Brendan – Beige Awards|
|Best of 2021||Yuru Camp 2|
Who needs emotional catharsis when you have COMFY? This really is just straight comfort food of a show, even if the presence of Aoi’s little sister means there’s another snaggle-lip to avoid looking directly at (This is getting out of hand, etc.). The chill music, the cartoony reaction faces, the dynamic OP in which Rin thumbs through photos taken during the previous episode on her phone, that time they roll the ending credits (and play the beautiful ED song) over a timelapse of Nadeshiko’s house so they could show her sneaking a present into her sister’s car, the food, and just the overall gentle demeanor – all so, so good.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2021||Super Cub|
For something straight-up named after a model of motor scooter, I don’t know what I was expecting, but it turned out to be a cute little show about making friends and expanding horizons.
|Worst of / Most Actually Dissapointing of 2021||Wonder Egg Priority|
Now that I think about it, I never did get around to watching the final episode, but I’ve heard conflicting reports as to whether it actually ties anything together. I feel like there was a lot of work to do to integrate the antagonists into the story so far, and it wasn’t happening at a rate that seemed likely to actually come to a satisfying conclusion. The additional revelation at the end of episode 12, while a very intriguing way to further explore Ai’s story, didn’t help matters on that front – plus, I thought it undercut the emotional climax of episode 9.
|Most Undeservedly Disappointing of 2021||The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!|
Genuinely only started watching Jahy because of a single panel from the manga I’d seen posted as a reaction online. The scene that it was a part of got adapted, but that particular panel seems like it got cut for pacing. This is less of a case of them making a bad decision, necessarily, than it is of me having unrealistic expectations – but I soft-dropped the show after that and haven’t felt motivated to pick it back up.
|Most Unnecessarily Huge Boobs||Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S|
Like, the rest of the show was fine, just… why?
|Most EDs||Kageki Shoujo!!|
Kinda wish record companies would be better about allowing lyric translations so that lazy Philistines like me could better tell the significance of what the different characters are singing.
|Longest-Running Unacknowledged Anachromnisms||Fruits Basket – The Final|
In fairness, I don’t recall anything sticking out to me in the last cours that wasn’t already present in the previous two chunks of the show, but, even to the end, the show never really decided whether it was taking place in 2021 or the year 2000. It is cursed to straddle two eras an entire generation apart, even if the march of time only subtly affects the norms around the character-driven core story.