Lightning First Looks: Winter 2021

It’s been an incredibly busy time over at GLORIO Towers, what with the new season and also gestures at everything. As a result we haven’t been able to roll out our customary slate of First Looks, but here instead are some quick bite-sized opinions on everything we’ve been watching. Also be sure to check out the latest episode of The Glorio Chat to hear us talk a bit more about the shows that really grabbed us.

Back Arrow

Anime original by Studio VOLN

Zigg: I’m kind of cool on Nakashima after the mess that was BNA, but Goro Taniguchi always delivers some tasty old-school mech action and this has the potential to be fun in an extremely stupid way.

Iro: Major mid-00s Gun x Sword energy coming from this one. Makes sense, seeing as how they’ve got the same director.

Aqua: I’m already not sure if I am okay with how Back Arrow espouses the virtue of questionable character traits like foolishness, masculinity and being insufferably stubborn, but if that is really what they want to go for, can’t they at least make it entertainingly wacky? If you wanna be so dumb people will find your silliness aspirational, at least commit to it.

Beastars (Season 2)

Manga adaptation by Orange

Zigg: Just as weird, fucked up, and horny as it ever was, only now with added Mafia shenanigans. In other words, it’s very good indeed.

Iro: If it sticks to the manga, Beastars season 2 will only get better with time. I’m excited.

Aqua: In its second season, Beastars continues its dance macabre between being human enough to be empathized with, yet strange enough to not be written off as a simple or half-assed allegory. As the murder mystery that kicked off the series comes back to the forefront, it is more Shakespearean than ever, but the excellent presentation continues to mirror the ensuing drama’s bizarre appeal perfectly. If you enjoyed the first season as you should have, there is no reason to doubt this follow-up.

Cells At Work (Season 2)

Manga adaptation by David Production

Euri: While a completely adequate sequel to the first season, airing this and Code Black simultaneously is an utterly baffling decision. Cells at Work! was never a show that I could marathon, and getting two episodes a week is really asking for a lot. That, and Code Black is just more interesting to me so far.

Cells At Work: Code Black

Manga adaptation by LIDENFILMS

Zigg: Given this is meant to be the ‘adult’ version of the show it’s weird how it still crams in the edutainment style explanatory voiceovers. Charming but fairly thin.

Euri: Perhaps I find this one more interesting because of its inherent ability to scare me into treating my body better, but Code Black tells the kind of stories I wanted from Cells at Work! in the first place.

Aqua: This show is the equivalent of your sixty-year-old science teacher walking into class in a shirt that says “Foxy Daddy”. It’s kinda raunchy, it’s kinda funny and it’s kinda gross, but it’s still, y’know, your sixty-year-old science teacher.

Dr. Stone: Stone Wars

Manga adaptation by TMS Entertainment

Euri: Not too much to say with only two episodes out at the moment, but I am more than ready for more of this show. However, I do hope that show continues to push on with the whole ‘win conflicts with science’ thing and not just go full-blown shounen, which might well happen considering the big confrontation that’s about to happen.

EX-ARM

Manga adaptation by Visual Flight

Zigg: If you take away the abominable visuals this is a boilerplate slice of wannabe futurepunk anime bullshit that is bad in all the fairly benign ways such things are usually bad. But you can’t take away those visuals. And holy shit.

Iro: Not even worth a hate watch, to be honest. It’s just an embarrassment on every level.

Aqua: Funny as it is to tear into the EX-ARM anime for its incompetence and the utterly delusional arrogance of its creators, let’s not forget to pour one out for the original creator of the manga this hatchet job was adapted from. Sure, the baby they graphically murdered in front of his eyes was a derivative, messy and uncontrollably horny baby to begin with, but it was still his baby, y’know?

Heaven’s Design Team

Manga adaptation by Asahi Production

Euri: God was having trouble designing all of Earth’s animals, so he outsourced it to a design team. This one isn’t going to be blowing minds, but its part-comedy part-educational take on animals and how weird they are is right up my alley.

Horimiya

Manga adaptation by CloverWorks

Zigg: Tons of charm and it’s so refreshing to see a relationship drama where the characters actually have common sense. I was hoping for more of a character piece than the fluffy slice of life we seem to be getting but eh, I’ll take it.

Euri: Easily my show of the season so far – it’s just so damn refreshing to not have shitty people and massive conflict (yet). I’m looking forward to how the story continues to rope in new characters and, of course, all the romance that’ll come with it.

Iro: This is aiming to fill the Nozaki-shaped holes in everyone’s hearts. It’s not as funny, but also the characters actually talk to each other, so you win some you lose some.

Aqua: Horimiya feels like a warm bath after a long day of work. This is anime doing what anime does best, a naturalistic display of its actors’ talent for bringing characters to life and its directors’ talent to make these lives look lifelike when the stakes are low to non-existent. Likeable is the word you would use to describe basically any aspect of this show, though I can’t say I’m not ready for someone to pour acid into my bathwater. Shows like this one have the tendency to devolve into melodrama.

Laid-Back Camp (season 2)

Manga adaptation by C-Station

Euri: Sometimes you just need a light, cosy show. Honestly, season two couldn’t have come at a better time for me given, you know, everything going on right now.

Log Horizon: Destruction of the Round Table

Light Novel adaptation by Studio DEEN

Iro: We are no longer living in the database, and to make things worse, a half-decade passing since Season 2 has made the show’s politics a bit harder to swallow. I won’t say it’s impossible for it to turn things about, but it’s on thin ice.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Light Novel adaptation by Studio Bind

Zigg: This is apparently a formative work of the isekai genre, and that explains a LOT. Like how most of those shows have morally repugnant main characters who are creepy perverts who you want to run a million miles away from. I guess it looks nice? Excuse me while I take several showers to try and get the stink off.

Iro: Isekai is bad. Read my year-end post where I looked at several isekai manga instead.

SK8 the Infinity

Anime original by BONES

Zigg: I suspect this is a less than accurate portrayal of Japanese skate culture, and it’s also very transparently a delivery service for various hot boys, but then it’s great fun and looks ridiculously good, so who cares?

Iro: If this will actually be about skateboarding in any meaningful way rather that only being about queerbaiting hot boys, it might actually be good. Bones is definitely delivering on the visual front.

Aqua: Shows about cool boys doing cool things usually get a bad rep — ironically, often from people who exclusively watch shows about cute girls doing cute things — but unlike their distaff counterparts, at least many of these cool boy shows seem to realize that the very concept of a show that tries to be cool is lame in and by itself. Ergo, we get shows like Yuri!! on Ice, Free! or indeed SK8 the Infinity, a colourful and brazen spectacle that puts its own, neon-lighted scare quotes around the “attitude” it is supposed to show off and revels in its own camp factor. It’s all sunshine, skating and slapstick? Yes, please.

Otherside Picnic

Novel adaptation by LIDENFILMS & Felix Film

Zigg: This is pleasingly odd and off kilter, and I’m attracted to its mix of bizarre otherworldly adventure and two-girl friendship (romance?). It’s positioned a little awkwardly between urban fantasy and pure surrealism but if they can navigate that I think this could be really intriguing.

Iro: What if In/Spectre had more maybe-lesbians and also more just shooting the monster with a gun?

Aqua: Otherside Picnic provides a unique combination of slow-burning romance, cutthroat urban exploration and surreal horror, but for now seems a bit unsure on how to deliver all these elements with the excitement, fascination and artistry they deserve. For a show with so much interesting doing on, it can sadly often feel a bit dull. The source material is confirmed genuine about its queerness, though — sorry, Iro — so if you’d for once like to see a yuri anime that isn’t a down-to-earth high school romance drama, you could be doing worse.

The Promised Neverland (Season 2)

Manga adaptation by CloverWorks

Zigg: Given that they did the thing already and escaped, it’s hard not to feel that this story is a little vestigial. Still the characters remain compelling and the show still looks great so I’m having fun, I just wonder how long they can keep it up.

Iro: This leg of the manga is probably the only other part of it worth adapting after Season 1. Watch if you want to see the show steadily head downhill.

Aqua: Shounen Jump and letting franchises end on high notes was never a particularly popular combination, and so Emma, Ray and their dozens of babysittees return for another season of… uh, events and occurrences. Turns out the real prison was a needlessly complicated plot after all! So yeah, the throat-wrenching tension and laser-sharp focus of the first season are kind of gone entirely, but at least the presentation is still top-notch. If you have a particular fondness for The Promised Neverland, this extended afterthought will be sure to entertain, yet essential viewing this is far from.

Wonder Egg Priority

Anime original by CloverWorks

Zigg: This is absolutely slap-bang in my wheelhouse – an artsy, surreal adventure with some heavy emotional undertones to work through. They’ll have to be careful with how they manage the darker and more serious themes they’re dealing with, but this was gorgeous and heartbreaking and I cannot wait to see where it goes.

Iro: I’m not a fan of how desperately this show pushes its surrealist angle. Chances are that I’m simply too dumb to recognize its genius.

Aqua: I haven’t been this excited for an anime in a very long time. Wonder Egg Priority is a poignant and brilliantly effective work that runs along your spine like a shiver but goes down as easily as a soft-boiled egg in the morning. Like a soft-boiled egg, Wonder Egg Priority is the best of a multiverse of worlds. It strikes the perfect spot on just about every axis you can think of, finding the exact right balance between gruesome and wholesome, artistic and accessible, sensational and cerebral, surreal and all too real. Whether you go to anime for the teen drama, the psychological horror, the hot-blooded action, the absurdist comedy or for the artistry of animation itself, this show will deliver everything you want and more. Do not pass this one up.

One thought on “Lightning First Looks: Winter 2021

  1. So far, the 2nd season of Laid Back Camp is everything I wanted – and less. Which is strictly congratulatory mind you! Keeping it so simple yet so good is no minor achievement. It’s fun to watch it in the same season as the accomplished master of simplicity… Non Non Byori. (Who, in my humble opinion, has been just a touch off it’s game so far.)

    Otherside… I think I’d like it a lot more of if it wasn’t playing so coy with so many of it’s elements.

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