The Wrap-Up: Spring 2021

It’s alive! It’s aliiiiive! In celebration of what has to be one of the greatest anime seasons in recorded history, we at The Glorio Blog were reminded of the fact that we are, apparently, a blog, and therefore expected to deliver written content. Hence, the highly anticipated (?) return of our most tried and truest feature — The Wrap-Up. In The Wrap-Up, all of our contributors get to shine a spotlight on the show they thought to be the very best of the past few weeks, as well as reflect back on the preview to see which shows let us down the most. When you watch currently airing anime or tokusatsu, eventually the question will rise which of these shows can rank amongst the medium’s true classics. Regardless of who covered what, this is where we single out the cream of the crop, and decide which shows from the past season deserve to stand the test of time.

That final statement is usually a hyperbolic one, but not in this case. This season brought me not one, not two, but three anime I would count as one of my all-time favourites! And that’s just me. In other, more discerning corners of the Internet, there was excitement for tons of shows I didn’t find the time to watch, from Shadows House over Super Cub to Godzilla: Singular Point. The relentless positivity to come out of this season felt like bona fide unicorn magic, like some kind of anime Eurovision Song Contest — one particularly cheesy moment in time of an entire fandom coming together, bonding over their shared love of a medium, even if everyone has their own favourite bizarre, silly piece of lox on this smorgasbord of outrageous ideas and eccentricities, and for just a little while forgetting that we all hate each other and that a not insignificant percentage of us are literal fascists. Just like the real Europe!

In brief, this anime season was so good, it gave me a unique sense of joy from watching or hearing people just enjoying anime. Even if the anime in question didn’t appeal to me at all, because heck, even this season’s overhyped crap was way better than the mixed-media idol franchises, gatcha game adaptations and isekai adaptations we usually get. Have you seen the line-up for next season? You’re gonna wish it wasn’t summer. Then again, seeing as you’re reading this, you’re probably a huge nerd and therefore don’t care much for summer, but let me tell you, normal people generally do—Oh, God… See? The internal strife is returning already! Next thing you know, we’ll all be calling each other paedophiles on Twitter again! Come back, Spring of 2021! Come back! 

What was your favorite show of the season?

Vivy – Fluorite Eye’s Song

While other series this season may have been more creative or complex, Vivy is the one I would run to my computer to watch as soon as it came out. Every episode had me jumping from my seat to cheer, or covering my mouth in shock. The blend of sci-fi, pop music, and musings about the nature of humanity speak to my soul in a way that only my favorite anime can.

Honorable Mentions: SSSS.Dynazenon is the best Gainax show I’ve seen in 15 years and surpasses its excellent predecessor in many ways. Odd Taxi was extremely impressive with it’s creative presentation and intricate, weaving plot lines. Super Cub is top notch slice of life that served as a chill, calming counterpoint to all the other shows I was watching.

Which show let you down the most?

Dragon Goes House-Hunting

As good as anime has been lately, I do feel there has been in a lack of quality of anime comedy the past few seasons. Dragon Goes House-Hunting looked like the kind of dumb, silly concept I would normally get behind, but I was unable to watch past the first episode. Rather than laugh, this made me want to smash my screen with its annoying main character and it’s completely unnecessary game-centric world building. Someone please give me a new funny anime.

Dishonorable Mentions: 86 -Eighty-Six-, for reasons my colleagues who watched the entire series will explain in detail.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Odd Taxi

This has been such a spectacular season full of incredible shows, and yet when the time came to pick one for this feature I knew in my heart which one it had to be. Yes, the one with the funny animal people. From such humble, unprepossessing beginnings was born a wonderful mixture of slice-of-life, crime thriller, character observation and social commentary, a heady mix that we’ve rarely seen in any anime before.

The greatest strength of Odd Taxi is undoubtedly its wickedly sharp script by original author Kadzuya Konomoto. Starting out as a tangle of seemingly unrelated tales about the little people of Tokyo, Konomoto skilfully weaves the individual narratives into a gripping web of intrigue, double dealing, murder and blackmail. Sure, the ‘cutesy presentation but DARK subject matter’ trick has been done before with varying degrees of success, but I think what sets Odd Taxi apart is that it never tries to glorify or show off its explicit content. It’s just presented as one grim facet of life on the city streets. The show is exceptionally good at taking what would be small potatoes for most anime and turning them into fantastically tense breaking points – one gun seems like the deadliest weapon in existence, one case of mistaken identity the catalyst for a series of escalating bad decisions.

Helping the script along is a terrific cast of characters, of multiple different stripes. Odokawa is the ultimate everyman, and I think the vast majority of us can relate to his world-weary resignation and reluctance to get involved in affairs beyond his pay grade. The galaxy of grotesques surrounding him, however, are what really make the show sing. From the lonely and foolish Kakihana, to the bitter and bickering pair of Homosapiens, to the guileless glee of Imai, each individual presents a different face of Tokyo to bounce off of our taxi driving protagonist. Everybody gets their moment in the spotlight too, and when the show decides to focus fully on a cast member and dig deep, that’s when some of the most outstanding storytelling comes to light. Episode 4, for example, is one long sustained drone of dread, gradually crescendoing into one of the most genuinely chilling cliffhangers I can remember. Yet at the same time, Odd Taxi can be remarkably funny, shot through with a wry, dark humour that often gently pokes fun at its own excesses.

It’s this all-around strength, spread across so many different subplots and stories, that combine to give Odd Taxi its richness and depth. It’s superbly paced, holding the audience in the palm of its hand, knowing just when to pull the strings for maximum reaction. Not a second of screentime is wasted, not a line of dialogue insignificant. From the opening plunge into the harbour, to the final, gob-smacking twist, you can’t look away for a moment. That’s why, in a season of giants, this is the one that will stay with me long after the credits roll.

Honorable Mentions: So many, where to start? SSSS.Dynazenon proved that the new Trigger is here for good, delivering a masterpiece of introspective, character focused storytelling, and not skimping on the giant robot action either. Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- was an extremely well put together techno-thriller with outstanding action and real heart. MEGALOBOX 2: Nomad brought Joe low and built him back up with raw, powerful, and occasionally uncomfortable storytelling.

Which show let you down the most?

Wonder Egg Priority

Never has a show’s resolution so utterly betrayed the themes and ideas which made it good.  There are reams and reams you could write on Wonder Egg Priority‘s troubled production, and who should take ultimate responsibility for it, but it all boils down to one thing – the ending sucks. It’s a dismal disappointment in terms of mundane things like story and character arcs, but even worse it is based on a hideous perversion of the values which the earlier episodes seemed so in tune with. It casts an unfortunate shadow over everything which came before it, and leaves a stain the show can never truly be free of.

Dishonorable Mentions: Yo, that new Digimon Adventure is somehow still going! And it sucks!

What was your favorite show of the season?

I don’t know

A combination of a compulsively contrarian attitude and a crippling lack of confidence in my own tastes makes me notoriously awful at picking favourites, which has caused me to not only to bury any ambitions I may have had to ever make boatloads of easy money writing clickbait Top 10 posts for CBR.com, but also makes it rather ironic that I’m in charge of this feature in the first place. Anyway, in the introduction I alluded to three shows I now count amongst my all-time favourites. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that these three shows are Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, Odd Taxi and SSSS.Dynazenon. Between Vivy‘s cut-throat pacing, epic scope and high-octane action, Odd Taxi‘s pitch-perfect unravelling of its labyrinthine mystery and Dynazenon‘s subtle warmth, artistic direction and melancholic character work, I just can’t pick one that stands out to me. I would say it all depends on your tastes, but honestly — my tastes in anime are pretty narrow at this point, and I still can’t for the life of you tell me which one I love the most. Watch all of them! It’s not like you’re gonna have anything better to do this summer!

Honorable Mentions: Despite being a top-notch adaptation, To Your Eternity simply can’t compete with this holy trinity for a very simple reason — I’ve already read the manga, so I know what’s going to happen. That, and it didn’t finish this season, so it’s not eligible in the first place. Keep on truckin’, Fushi!

Which show let you down the most?

Digimon Adventure (2020)

According to my research, we last did a Wrap-up in the year 2019 B.C. (Before Covid), meaning that I’ve never really given myself an opportunity to tear this fucking thing a new one. Allow me to fix that mistake. I think that more than fifty episodes in, I am more than qualified to say that the rebooted Digimon Adventure is one of the most phoned-in, cynical, irredeemable anime ever made. I don’t know why I’m still watching it. I don’t know why they’re still making it. Heck, I don’t know why they made it in the first place. It’s bound to piss off the old fans it so transparently tries to cater to, because it has nothing in common with the show we love. It’s not for kids either, though, because I refuse to believe the kids of today has any patience for something this banal, dated and lame.

Digimon Adventure 2020 is a creatively bankrupt abomination with the writing sensibilities and production values of a roadside puppet show, hell-bent on subverting everything the original show is remembered for in the worst of bad faith. All the fights, which make up about ninety percent of the show, consist of floating cutouts shooting laser beams at each other and look like they were animated in Microsoft PowerPoint. Character development is a non-existent concept because the DigiDestined barely interact. Large, cathartic events from the original show, like Agumon’s transformation into WarGreymon, are recontextualized as shallow, accidental occurrences in filler episodes.

Not that the word “filler” means anything in the context of this show, seeing as there is no plot to ignore in the first place. The characters — more often that not just Tai, through some contrivance — just travel from barely defined point A to barely defined point B to fight whatever Big Doom was drawn from the ominous prophecy lottery this time around, and on their way meet annoying side characters facing problems that make Dora the Explorer‘s issues look positively Shakespearean. Some combination of large predator and firearm shows up to wordlessly bother them, laser beams are exchanged, murder is committed, a resolution of sorts is reached, and if you’re lucky, some Toei suit slips and lands on the button giving the green light for a new transformation, upon which you can be disappointed all over again. Rinse and repeat until your brain starts leaking out of your ears. Please, just let this franchise die in peace.

What was your favorite show of the season?

MEGALOBOX 2: Nomad

MEGALOBOX 2: Nomad is the most wholly uncompromised work I have watched in years. It is the triumph of a creative vision that is so singularly united in every facet that I am left completely astonished something so pure could exist. It’s the tale of Joe’s redemption, but also so much more. It’s a remarkably thoughtful story about family, survival, and finding meaning in one’s own existence. I was compelled from start to finish, not just by Joe’s struggle to make amends with the family he destroyed, but the various trials and tribulations of the rest of its surprisingly well rounded cast. From the affable immigrant boxer Chief to Sakuma, who might go down in history as one of the most scathing portrayals of silicon valley corporate leadership I’ve ever seen, Nomad’s impressive ability to use its short runtime to bring such a wide cast to life is nothing short of masterful.

It’s a story that’s completely unafraid of handling topics like xenophobic discrimination, toxic masculinity, and capitalist exploitation with the maturity and nuance they deserve. This is an anime that has things it wants to say about society and culture, largely succeeding at every single talking point it approaches.

Like its first season, Nomad is also a grand achievement in its presentation. The world of Nomad is even grimier and dustier than ever, you can practically taste the dirt in your mouth watching Joe hazily drift from one bloody ring to the next. Mabanua has outdone himself with Nomad’s soundtrack, taking on a more appropriately Spanish influence this time around that perfectly captures the spirit of Nomad’s newfound focus.

This seemingly effortless marriage of storytelling and presentation turn Nomad into one of the most satisfying and wholly complete works of fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure of engaging with. It trades away its attention on the bloody spectacle of its namesake to become something far more complex, brave, and compassionate then I ever could have imagined. I wasn’t sure what a sequel could possibly bring to the table but after finishing it, I’m deeply grateful for the time I got to spend with Joe. MEGALOBOX 2: Nomad is a generational character piece, a masterwork in self assured and focused storytelling.

Honorable Mentions: SSSS.Dynazenon is another hugely successful sequel that proves its creators deserve our attention and respect. Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- is the kind of anime original that gets my giddy even years later, thanks to its spectacle and presentation. Odd Taxi charms you with its deliberately paced storytelling and engaging character work. Godzilla: Singular Point is the kind of crazy science thriller that in some regards gets Godzilla a lot better than some of its contemporaries. Long live Jet Jaguar.

Which show let you down the most?

86 -Eighty-Six-

If I had to describe Eighty Six, I would say it’s an anime whose individual parts are unfortunately greater than the sum of its whole. There’s a lot of reasons I should have liked Eighty Six. Its anime military fiction setting, the fun and relatively grounded spider tank style mecha, even the premise itself of a military industrial complex built on a false and prejudiced premise is the kind of sociopolitical arc I like to see in more military oriented stories.

And yet, Eighty Six consistently failed to capture my interest. Some of that was its bland cast of characters, but more prominently, was Eighty Six’s constant inability to leverage its strengths to anything greater. Perhaps some of that is my own fault for expecting too much from an anime, but if your story claims it’s going to have something important to say about propaganda, discrimination, and war, then you must be held to a higher standard. Eighty Six largely fails to meet that bar, which is a shame, because the occasional glimpses of a far more interesting story can sometimes be found in between Lena’s ineffectual posturing or the tired anime tropes that dominate the majority of its screen time.

Dishonorable Mentions: There’s no point in beating the dead horse that is Back Arrow, but it’s still disappointing that an anime with so many good ingredients coming together would get blended into something so bland.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Odd Taxi

It has been a long, long time since there’s been a show as good as this that has just been fun to talk about each week. The numerous character threads, interactions and mysteries lent itself perfectly for speculation, and on top of that, it continued to deliver. I will remember my discussion with Zigg and Peter about the location of a pencil eraser for quite a while, I’m sure.

On top of this, Odd Taxi knew when it could goof around, and knew when to reel it back and be serious. This could very easily have fallen into some mopey, miserable show while still hitting those same story beats, but the show knows not to go there. For every dark moment – and there are many – there’s a rapping porcupine, a conversation emulating a manzai bit or an alpaca practicing capoeira.

It’s hard to believe that in a thirteen episode series, we’ve managed to see full character arcs for countless characters, none of which feel unimportant or uninteresting. It’s a masterclass in character development that brings out the best in an already good story. This anime season was packed full of a good shows, yet somehow, Odd Taxi still manages to show them up. I cannot recommend it enough.

Honorable Mentions: SSSS.Dynazenon would have grabbed the top spot for me in basically any other season – please read Zigg’s series on that show if you’re interested in more good character development, plus giant robots. To Your Eternity has been very good thus far – even though the character deaths seem especially telegraphed, they still manage to smash you like a truck when they happen. MEGALOBOX 2: Nomad was also terrific, which I’m especially glad about. The first season was excellent and didn’t need the sequel treatment, but TMS certainly did a heck of a job proving they still had something to say.

Which show let you down the most?

Farewell, My Dear Cramer

Trust me, I really wanted to enjoy this show. Women’s football just doesn’t have much of a presence in anime, and this was also coming from the author of Your Lie in April. It was also launching in the midst of the European Championships and the Copa America, which you’d think would be deliberate to draw in extra eyes from western fans. The Women’s European Championships were also scheduled to be happening around this time, but were postponed due to Covid-19. With all of this, you would think they were ready to capitalise on an audience hungry for football.

Absolutely not, and for a number of reasons. The animation quality, as I mentioned in my first look of this show, just isn’t there. Simple running animations end up janky, faces look lifeless at times and any scene that uses speed and focus lines are laughable. There’s also a huge lack of audio – very rarely is there background music playing, and when it is it’s out of place. Important scenes on the field fall flat because of this, as the anime is assuming we’re as pumped up and on-edge as we’re meant to be. There’s also not a lot of character development – beyond the three main girls, everyone else is either irrelevant or a caricature.

The author has an obvious love for the sport as he manages to pull out all sorts of football references during the story, but also seems torn on what he wants the story to be. The key message behind the show is that women and girls are under immense pressure to perform and elevate themselves out of the shadow of the men’s game. This is, obviously, a very real issue. But the author also manages to make the team’s coach, an ex-national team woman, completely ineffective to the point where they have to get a guy to handle the team’s tactics. Explanations of the matches are also largely left to the main character’s male friends, which also isn’t a great look.

It’s apparent we haven’t seen the best side of this story thanks to this adaptation, but the issues I have with the story are also not a fault of the studio, and that’s a huge shame. It’s no doubt going to be some time before we get another anime focussed on women’s football, but I hope that when that time comes, we get something better than this.

Dishonorable Mentions: My Hero Academia season 5 had a painfully slow first half while we watched another training arc, but it does seem to be heading into a better arc now. Pokemon Journeys: The Series has also improved, but it’s still far from being Sun & Moon season 2, and that’s a shame. I’m also not a massive fan of them discarding Gou’s partners – Cinderace is stuck in a ball most episodes and they’ve literally abandoned Drizzile in a cave.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Super Cub

Super Cub might well be one of the most slow-burn slice-of-life titles I’ve ever come across. With comparatively little dialogue (particular in the first handful of episodes) and even a lack of background music at times, it’s a quiet anime in every sense of the word – but the lack of ‘action’ and the long, uncut empty spaces, combined with the extremely deliberate pacing and nature-filled background art, meant this series was right up my alley. I’m not sure I expected Super Cub to be this season’s healing show, especially since I don’t know or care much about motorcycles, but every week, it’s delivered on the soul-soothing aspects without fail, despite (or weirdly, maybe even slightly because of?) its completely unapologetic product placement.

Honorable Mentions: To Your Eternity (still ongoing), Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-, SSSS.Dynazenon

Which show let you down the most?

The Way of the Househusband

This anime should have been comedy gold, and could very easily have achieved that… if only it had actually been animated. Unfortunately, The Way of the Househusband is little more than a collection of still frames, presumably taken directly from the manga, meaning it barely qualifies as an anime at all. That’s a real shame, since the voice acting is on point and the jokes practically tell themselves. After enjoying the hell out of the live-action series, I was fully on board for more of the same adorable idiocy in anime form, but with a grand total of 5 half-length episodes released on Netflix and what appears to be a roughly $5 budget to match, this show seemed set up for failure from the very beginning.

Dishonorable Mentions: Fruits Basket: The Final. Admittedly, a bit of a low blow here, since the Fruits Basket remake as a whole did what I can only assume is an admirable job of adapting the manga. Unfortunately, I was so over the story itself by this point that I continued watching purely out of stubbornness, despite no longer liking any of the characters and finding the completely overblown melodrama more laughable than emotionally impactful. In other words, I should have quit far earlier.

What was your favorite show of the season?

Odd Taxi

My first anime season writing for Glorio and a genuinely difficult one to pick just a single favourite. With my long-standing love for music in anime, Vivy felt like the right pick. This show has some beautiful animation, upping the stakes almost every episode, and delivering satisfying results every time too. The finale felt a bit rushed and somewhat of a cop out, but still largely satisfying and self-contained, which is a rare thing in a lot of shows I watch.

But then the final episode of Odd Taxi happened. Odd Taxi had been consistently interesting in every episode, but in a much more subtle way than Vivy. The way countless seemingly throwaway items or comments come back episodes later and give you a real “a-ha!” moment when they do, is truly unparalleled. And yet, the show was somewhat tedious at the same time. There were some moments where it felt like it spent too long pointing at something and saying “this is important, remember this for later” and other times where things are mentioned briefly that you’re expected to recall later. There’s also a few plotlines that were stitched onto the edge of the main plot rather than woven in seamlessly that made them seem somewhat superfluous to the main story. So, by the penultimate episode, I was ready to say on this post that “Odd Taxi was very good, but Vivy beat it out to the top spot”. However, the final episode of Odd Taxi tied so many loose ends up, had some twists that apparently my daft arse didn’t see coming (unlike others in Glorio), had some amazing cinematography in certain shots (the bridge scene in particular) and overall finished in a much more satisfying way than even Vivy.

While Vivy was a long and varied fireworks display increasing in intensity as the show went on, Odd Taxi was a trail of gunpowder leading to a huge explosion; it couldn’t be stopped, and the finale took everything out with it.

Honorable Mentions: Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song (see above) and Shadows House: Please watch it. As described in more detail in my first look post, this show puts so much attention to detail in its slow worldbuilding and visual character profiles on the sillouettes of the Shadow family. In a much more subtle way than Vivy, Shadows House both answers questions and makes you ask many more every episode.

Which show let you down the most?

So I’m a Spider, So What?

I’ve shared my thoughts of this show on the radio and on Twitter and, although the final episode has been delayed, I can pretty easily state a final opinion of this show: it was such a let down.

Now, I’ve not read the light novels for this show, and I hear those aren’t much better in this department either, but the show’s flip flopping between the spider story and the human story was incredibly tedious and really did it no favours. The sheer tonal dissonance between the extremely hyper and comedic adventures of Kumoko with the bland adventures of the various humans made them feel like two completely different worlds, and only the spider one was fun and worth watching.

Whenever this comes up on Twitter, fans of the light novel are quick to comment about how the human parts are “important”, “required” and “will make sense later”, and yet the anime does a really good job of making me not care. Even if the final episode joins them together, they’ve still made a show that’s only entertaining barely 50% of the time.

Dishonorable Mentions: Combatants Will Be Dispatched! I had some degree of hope for this show back in my First Look, and while it managed to deliver somewhat on comedy, it really didn’t manage to grab me. The final episode has finished airing, and I’ve made it 6 episodes in and I think I’ve had enough. Agent 6 continues to be too insufferable to use the “but I’m evil” card. You’re not evil, you’re just a prick, in multiple definitions of the word. I did hope this show would be better, but sadly not.


So hey, that’s a lot of shows getting a lot of praise, isn’t it? Nevertheless, the Wrap-Up has since its inception always aimed to answer the question “If you only watch one show of the past anime season, which one should you watch?”, hasn’t it? Let’s do what I do best and avoid responsibility entirely by introducing the handy Glorio Blog Spring 2021 Anime Recommendation Flowchart! If you’re still in doubt as to which one show is the one for you, answer the questions below and find out!

Did your favourite make the cut? Or is there an anime of the year contender we haven’t mentioned at all? Make sure to let us know in the comments! If you just can’t get enough of our fawning over this season’s anime, make sure you check out our seasonal wrap-up podcast in which we let the praise ring all over again and bask in the glory of this moment in time for just a little longer before summer reminds us of what anime seasons are usually like yet again. How bad does it look, you ask? Oh, my sweet cinnamon roll, if only you knew

2 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Spring 2021

  1. All of this love for Vivy…just does not compute.

    To me, it was a thoroughly mediocre, blabby, poor man’s Terminator that aspired to the insight of Ghost in the Shell, but ultimately just left a RE:Zero-sized stain on the anime schedule.

    • i am not going to tell you that you cannot have that opinion and i hope your apparent dislike of one of several good shows of the spring 2021 anime season does not mean that you did not enjoy a single one of the aforementioned good shows at all

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