Mid-Winter 2021 Anime Ranking

Going into this season, aside from the obvious sequels, there were very few new anime that caught our attention based on description. Therefore, voice talent became a major deciding factor for the shows we checked out. That’s how we ended up watching almost everything that Umehara Yūichirō and Saitō Sōma, my current favourite and my sister’s favourite seiyuu, respectively, have roles in.

I had to bail on EX-ARM (starring Sōma) after 3 episodes, however. I never had any delusions that it might be good. More like I had hoped it might be so bad it’s good. But it was just bad.

Also because of Sōma, we picked up The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Toubun no Hanayome) in the middle of its second season, without bothering with season one. So yes, we are now following both the sextuplet-brothers anime and the quintuplet-sisters anime.

We started HIGH-RISE INVASION as well (Ume plays Sniper Mask), also with the expectation that it might be so bad it’s good. So far, that’s panning out fine. We’ve seen only 4 episodes, so it’s not included in the ranking below. Of course The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ isn’t included either because we started on episode 9.


01. JUJUTSU KAISEN (ep. 14-22) – Last cour, we fell in love with Nanami. This cour, Tōdō has stolen our hearts with his instant bromance with Itadori.

I really did not expect to like Tōdō so much when he was first introduced. It turns out he is incredibly talented, strong, smart, stupid, and funny. When he’s being serious, his thoughts are impressively organized. Like any good eccentric genius though, he’s got his quirks. Not only is he a zealous otaku who lives for his waifu, he also happens to have a hilariously over-active imagination. That whole elaborate shared history he spontaneously fabricates for himself and Itadori is priceless!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Final Season (overall ep. 60-72) – This is a very different show from when it all started. The setting has expanded; the characters’ understanding of their world has completely been altered; and the character art has changed too – I’m not personally a big fan of the new art.

Because we felt a bit lost after the radical developments at the end of season 3, we weren’t as keen for this final season when it started airing in December as we should have been. We actually put off watching until mid-January. But once we started, it was very hard to stop.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


03. SK∞ (SK8 the Infinity) (ep. 1-9) – Langa grew up snowboarding in Canada, so when he takes up the skateboard in Japan, that experience informs his style and natural talent. As he rapidly gains attention in the underground “S” racing circuit, how will that affect his relationship with his newfound skateboard buddy, Reki?

All of the characters are likeable, fun, and attractive. Well, I’m not sure I can say I ‘like’ ADAM that much, but he certainly makes an impression! Langa and Reki have a genuinely sweet friendship. And for some reason, I really like Cherry, including how his distinctly masculine voice is somewhat at odds with his very feminine appearance. Long, pink-haired effeminate dudes are not uncommon in anime. I’m serious: check out Mochizuki from Skate-Leading ☆ Stars and Kokoro from I★CHU from this list alone. However, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one as elegant and manly as Cherry.

SK8 is helmed by Utsumi Hiroko, director of Free! and Banana Fish. If you loved the heart and artistry of Free!, this gorgeous anime is definitely one I recommend.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. Dr. STONE: STONE WARS (ep. 1-9)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Horimiya (ep. 1-10) – I’m really particular about my romance anime. I find the usual tropes and melodrama tiring. Fortunately, Horimiya mostly hits the right notes for me. The characters seem like good, well-adjusted kids. I like that when the main characters get confronted by classmates about their dating status, the response is “Yeah, so?” instead of denials and lies.

That said, I do find Hori’s recent kink development to be problematic on multiple levels. It would not be an issue if they kept it very occasional and very private. Acting like that in public, however, can give their teachers and classmates the wrong idea and get them in real trouble.

Also, abusive behaviour could easily become real, as Miyamura has to change his mindset in order to act so differently from his usual nature.

Worst, their play-abuse normalizes that type of interaction for people who see them and makes light of those who may genuinely be victimized. So yeah, I know it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but I could do without that aspect of the show.
(streaming at Funimation)


06. 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team (Seiin Koukou Danshi Volley Bu) (ep. 1-10) – The early time skip was confusing to me. It wasn’t obvious how much time had passed and what went down in the meantime. Some of the characters seemed to be dealing with some past trauma, but that wasn’t very clear. And are Haijima and Kuroba actually close friends?

At least the Seiin team senpai, Aoki and Oda, are more likeable. Especially Aoki (Ume’s character); I love how bossy, manipulative, and clever he is.

Well, then the Fukuho team made their debut mid-series, and almost immediately, I was wondering, ‘Oh no, these are the rivals right? How come it feels so much like they are the protagonists of this story? I haven’t even warmed up to the home team this much yet!’
(streaming at Funimation)


07. Skate-Leading ☆ Stars (ep. 1-11) – This is a sports anime featuring skate-leading, a fictional group-ice-skating sport that’s part dance and part synchronized figure skating. Competitions have a short program and a long program like other figure skating divisions.

Ep. 6 kind of confused me. First Maeshima was criticized for being too sloppy, but then as soon as he tightened his performance, he got blamed for playing it too safe. I’m surprised he didn’t seem as frustrated as we felt watching it.

Sōma and Ume both have supporting roles, and both of them play to type here. Ume turns in another Non-Expressive Dude, while Sōma continues to make Radiant Golden Boy his personal specialty. Kuonji (Sōma’s character) is actually a highlight of the anime. Because he apparently spent time in Canada, he regularly peppers his dialogue with (well-pronounced!) English phrases. Kuonji is just so obnoxious and in-your-face, he kind of bulldozes over the rest of the cast and steals the show. It’s awesome.
(streaming at Funimation)


08. Hortensia SAGA (ep. 1-10) – A fairly generic fantasy-adventure anime starring an extremely generic-looking male lead, with some pretty generically evil villains. Surely Marius/Marielle could do a better job at pretending to be a man. Anyone who didn’t already know she was supposed to be a guy would take just one look and assume she’s female!

Anyway, the king of Hortensia has been murdered and the church has taken control. It’s up to the hidden princess and her trusted companions to defeat the evil forces and save her kingdom.

But wait. Let’s put aside the evil pope and the war for a moment. Adelheid, ruler and military commander of the Principality of Olivier, ‘noticed’ Deflotte! Could it be? Here I assumed his romantic advances were only meant to be a clownish character flaw. Could it be he actually has a chance with her?

Not saying anything about the rest of the show, but in general, I like how they’ve portrayed this (Ume’s) character. For all that he’s made out to be a girl-crazy flirt, I have to respect that Deflotte had no eyes whatsoever for the likes of the pretty pop-idol princess-pretender who charmed dozens of male admirers, and instead set his sights way, way above his station! He also gets to speak up and complain whenever they have to do anything unpleasant, though that never stops him from doing his duty faithfully.
(streaming at Funimation)


09. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu) 3rd Season (ep. 13-22)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. THE PROMISED NEVERLAND (Yakusoku no Neverland) Season 2 (ep. 1-9) – I had high expectations for this, based on how good the first season was, but it’s been pretty disappointing.
(streaming at Funimation)


11. I★CHU: Halfway Through the Idol (ep. 1-10) – It’s a common complaint of mine when it comes to these idol shows: too many characters. Even in their groups, I have trouble recognizing each guy. Once they are separated from their units? Forget it.

One of the groups consists of members from 5 different nationalities. I would think that would afford them the unique liberty of being able to incorporate a wide variety of styles into their music without worry of triggering cultural appropriation accusations; but they seem to play it safe. Of course, this is a show that has a walking, talking bear as a school principal, so never mind.

Credit where it’s due, the I★CHU performance segments appear to be more hand-drawn than CG, and they look good!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. WAVE!! -Let’s go surfing!!- (WAVE!!: Surfing Yappe!!) (ep. 1-9) – A dumb kid suddenly develops a passion for surfing. Then tragedy strikes (in a rather dumb way.) Then life goes on.

The CG surfing animation is not amazing, but I think it’s passable enough to service the story. The story itself is the real problem; I am pretty surprised at how it’s basically gone nowhere.

Right, and don’t get me started on that annoying synthesized soundtrack.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

(EX-ARM, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ are on Crunchyroll; HIGH-RISE INVASION is on Netflix)

Mid-Autumn 2020 Anime Ranking

This Fall season has been a remarkably strong one, filled with more titles I really look forward to catching each week than any other cour this past year. Accordingly, it was difficult to rank so many great shows. I almost copped out and made my top 2 to top 6 a 5-way tie! At any given time, depending on the week or the episode, any one of them could have held the number 2 spot; heck, possibly even the number 1 spot.

To put the icing on the cake, this season has also turned out to be an amazing and very welcome travelogue of the Japan that I miss. It thrills me to see familiar Tokyo cityscapes in Ikebukuro West Gate Park, HYPNOSIS MIC, and the newest Love Live!; while AKUDAMA DRIVE offers a different yet recognizable take on Osaka scenery!


01. MORIARTY THE PATRIOT (Yuukoku no Moriarty) (ep. 1-10) – William James Moriarty, Arthur Conan Doyle’s notorious villain, is the star of this series, alongside his 2 brothers. He is a highly charismatic and cunning math professor/crime consultant who secretly strives to eliminate the evils of the ruling nobility.

Finally we have a mystery anime with some competent mystery-solving!

It gets pretty dark though. And I have to say, while I agree that criminals such as the child-killer in the first episode absolutely deserved to be killed (especially to prevent further murders), I personally find revenge-as-healing to be too simplistic. I’m sure that delivering bloody retribution to some entitled asshole who has no regard for the health and safety of those ‘beneath’ him would feel good momentarily, but it would not reverse the damage that’s been done, and I doubt it could ever make things truly seem right again.

The true hero, none other than Sherlock Holmes, makes an appearance in ep. 6, but doesn’t get to take centre stage until the eighth episode. At first I thought he was too goofy to fit the tone of the series, but after seeing him wallow in some angst, I’m warming up to him and look forward to his “L versus Light”-like matchup with William.
(streaming at Funimation)


02. AKUDAMA DRIVE (ep. 1-10) – AKUDAMA DRIVE is an absolute spectacle of a show. With its striking neon visuals and stunning action pieces, it practically exudes cool.

The larger than life characters are crazy fun; and their special abilities and fighting scenes manage to be totally awesome and ridiculous at the same time. Meanwhile, the dystopian setting makes obvious statements about the perils of a totalitarian government and corrupt police force.

It’s hard to know where this plot is going. Hopefully we’ll get some meaningful answers, but for now, I’m definitely enjoying the ride!
(streaming at Funimation)


03. Ikebukuro West Gate Park (ep. 1-10) – Considering that the source material is over 20 years old, it’s impressive how modern the subjects covered by the anime are. In fact, some quick research reveals significant differences between this and previous IWGP incarnations, with this anime version being much more wholesome in general.

So don’t expect a western-style gangland crime drama. IWGP is remarkably positive and heartwarming. For example, after the G-Boys’ rival gang is introduced in ep. 2, the two groups promptly work out their perceived differences by talking things over!

The show covers an array of timely topics such as gang turf wars, Chinese propaganda, and social media online dissing turning into real-life hostilities, but so far hasn’t come to guns and murder. This is a rose-coloured, rather Japanese take on things, and I love it! Though it may not seem very realistic by North American standards, it is consistent with Ikebukuro being stereotyped as the seedy, bad part of Tokyo; because by our standards, it is not very bad at all!
(streaming at Funimation)


04. JUJUTSU KAISEN (ep. 1-11) – The newest monster-fighting shounen is a lot better than I expected. Great character writing makes all the difference in this show. Despite the horror elements, it is a fun watch with an extremely likeable cast and a lot of humour. Just don’t watch during dinner if the sight of someone ingesting cursed fingers is likely to ruin your appetite!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. NOBLESSE (ep. 1-10) – The art in this looks low-tech compared to a lot of recent anime. But what it lacks in shininess and flashiness, it more than makes up for in its writing, likeable characters, and unexpectedly frequent humour. Somehow it never ceases to amuse me that Rai, the lead character of the show, hardly ever speaks; and he remains oddly disengaged while everything is happening around him.

I’ve seen complaints that NOBLESSE is just a rehashed vampire/high school story, and the criticism is understandable, but personally, I don’t mind that this is not a high concept anime. It is genuinely fun to watch and that’s enough!

Note: It is recommended to watch or familiarize oneself with the events of NOBLESSE: AWAKENING before watching this.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. IDOLiSH7: Second BEAT! (ep. 5-13) – After encountering gossip in real life and on social media, a few of the IDOLiSH7 guys grapple with feelings of insecurity when comparing themselves to the other members. I would think that this is a cruel reality of life as an idol, unfortunately, where popularity is constantly measured and is a primary determinant of success. It’s a sobering topic, a problem with no happy resolution.

While the main spotlight is on the Re:vale duo this season, I am happy to see that there’s a fair amount of screen time for the TRIGGER boys too. Tenn, Gaku, and Ryuunosuke are such strong characters, with well-defined personalities, that the drama and the comedy seem to flow especially naturally when they are around.

In all honesty, the show is always 100% better whenever TRIGGER appears. Probably IDOLiSH7 would not like to hear me saying that about their own show, but at least I am confident that they do not read this little blog, so no hurt feelings I hope!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. HAIKYU!! TO THE TOP (Season 4) (ep. 14-24) – Most of this cour features the play-by-play coverage of the matchup between Karasuno and Inarizaki. It sounds simple and drawn out, but Haikyuu!! is great at this and is always exciting to watch.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. MAGATSU WAHRHEIT: ZUERST (ep. 1-9) – Apparently this is based on a game, but it really is hard to tell!

A complicated government conspiracy, a corrupt military, a rebel group, and mutant monsters all figure into this fantasy-action story. Two main characters are on opposing sides of the conflict. Interestingly, neither of them stand out to me that much. It’s almost like they are just part of the greater ensemble cast.

Well, I didn’t have any particular expectations going in, but I’m mostly enjoying the series so far.
(streaming at Funimation)


09. Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle (Maoujou de Oyasumi) (ep. 1-10) – The Demon Lord and his staffers had no idea what they were getting into when they captured Princess Syalis (I’m sorry, but I always think her name sounds like Cialis.) Oh, the horrors of having a cute little human girl in their midst who has zero regard for anyone or anything but getting herself a good night’s sleep!

The show is full of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness and parody of adventure game mechanics. Some of the best parts, though, have got to be when the demon castle regulars delight in seeing newcomers get punk’d, when they encounter the princess for the first time and horribly underestimate her.
(streaming at Funimation)


10. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu) 3rd Season (ep. 1-9) – Season 2 was a let-down compared to season 1. So far, I’d put season 3 in the middle. The sextuplets-tachi’s skits are always kind of hit or miss for me, but their absurd antics and cultural references are hitting the mark more often than not this time around.

There’s probably a bit more introspection too, as evidenced by Totoko’s existential crises and the totally serious skit in ep. 5, where the Matsuno boys just walk and talk after attending a wedding reception together.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. HYPNOSIS MIC: Division Rap Battle – Rhyme Anima (ep. 1-11) – The Hypnosis Mic franchise has been around and building hype since 2017 in the form of music releases, a game, manga, and stage plays. This is the first anime adaptation.

This stylish anime features an abundance of attitude, swagger, and profanity, which can be entertaining, but the overall plot seems a bit weak to me. It probably doesn’t help that I am not that into the titular rap battles either.
(streaming at Funimation)


12. Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club (ep. 1-10) – I watched the first Love Live! series back in winter 2013, but did not bother with its sequel or Love Live! Sunshine!!. So this newest iteration of Love Live! was not even on my radar. But then, we learned that it is set in Odaiba, and that proved to be the nudge that our Tokyo-travelsick asses needed to check this out. Satisfyingly, the girls go shopping at DiverCity, one of the big malls in Odaiba, twice in the very first episode.

Well, now that the narrative is focused more on the various girls and less on the scenery, the anime is also becoming considerably less interesting to me.
(streaming at Funimation)


13. TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION 2 (ep. 1-10) – Wow, this is so bad. The primary activity that these idol boys seem to engage in is sitting around, brainstorming for their upcoming events. There is really no plot.

Despite being advertised in the title, the ‘animation’ often doesn’t truly meet the definition of the word. In fairness, the more recent episodes do fare a little better. There are even instances where character movements are suddenly quite impressive, even if, ironically, the occasion doesn’t seem to call for it. Which tells me the production staff are capable, but the time and money are not there.

Anyway, my standards and expectations for this show are nearly rock bottom. Any episode that doesn’t involve brainstorming, such as the sudden cooking show that was ep. 8, now seems pretty darn good.
(streaming at Funimation)