Other than the unusually-scheduled Fena: Pirate Princess, nearly every Summer 2021 series has either concluded or hit its seasonal break, so it’s time to do a wrap-up before the (very packed!) new season gets underway.
Biggest Disappointment: The Detective is Already Dead
This series started out with such a neat female lead and intriguing concept, so how did it become such a mess?
At least part of the problem is the series’ concerted effort to revel in snarky banter, a la Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. The writing too often struggled to get the timing down right on this, which resulted in lame attempts to do it when a sense of urgency was more called for. Even beyond the banter, conversations that were too long and/or too casual repeatedly bogged the series down to a frustrating degree. A thorough edit job to tighten up the pacing would have helped immensely.
Trying to tell the story out of order after the double-length first episode also didn’t help. Other series have proved that this can be done successfully, but the way this series did it made the overall story hard to follow and left several gaps; how does the blonde come into the picture, for instance? This never was explained in more than a vague, off-handed way. The coherence of the storyline does improve at the end, when the plot finally shows what all of the scattered events past the first episode were working towards, but the payoff is not enough to balance out the irritation in getting there and leaves a few too many questions unanswered.
The series wasn’t without its merits. It certainly featured pretty character designs, Siesta was generally a delight, and the scene where she was drunk was one of the season’s most adorably sexy moments. I have to think that there was a better series to be had here, however.
Top Performer: The aquatope on white sand
With the series featuring the same studio and much of the same main staff as 2018’s Iroduku: The World in Colors (and even partly ripping off that series’ opener), there was a high probability that I was going to like this one, and it didn’t disappoint. While maybe not an overwhelming success, this was certainly one of the better-animated and generally prettiest series of the season, and it featured an interestingly different angle on its storytelling: one girl’s effort to find herself after life as an idol didn’t pan out, and another girl’s desperate effort to keep the family aquarium operating despite imminent closure, for the aquarium almost literally means everything to her. In their broken dreams, the two girls meet, form a comfortable (if not necessarily yuri) chemistry, and support and strengthen each other through trials both ordinary and dramatic. (A typhoon is a pivotal event late in the season.
What most makes the series work is its fine character writing; these are easily understandable and wholly believable and likable characters, and they interact in natural ways. If there’s a flaw here, it’s that former idol Fuuka gets underused as the writing focuses more on aquarium girl Kukuru’s story, but the series occasionally pulls off some touching moments and mixes in a light but wonderful touch of magic in the odd experiences that some have at the aquarium. Though the series meandered a bit in the middle, its first half finished with a strong final two episodes. I will definitely be continuing with it.
Thoughts on Other Series:
Battle Game in 5 Seconds (2.5/5 overall): I’m sure that I’m not the only one left scratching my head over that ending. I like Yuri just enough that I might watch more, but the limited animation, unlikable lead villain Mion, the largely-unsympathetic protagonist Akira, and a host of other smaller factors leave this one near the bottom of death game-type series rankings for the past few years. Might have still been at least passable with better animation.
Fena: Pirate Princess (3.5/5 overall): The series is not done, and it has the feel of some basic driving plot structure, but I am taking more of a liking to it the more I watch it. (A strong opening theme doesn’t hurt on this.) It is easily one of the season’s best-animated titles, and it has certainly not lacked for cool, exotic settings, flashy action, and an almost laughable collection of mythical and historical tidbits being thrown together. Would like to see Fena be a bit stronger and more capable character, and despite a pretty character design, she lacks the winning charm of a Pacifica Casull (from Scrapped Princess, who is the character she probably most resembles situationally). But the series feels like it’s starting to get on a roll, so I look forward to seeing how it plays out.
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom (3.5 overall): I have shared my thoughts on this one extensively in the episode reviews, so I won’t go into detail here. While I often felt that the series could have been doing a bit more (or at least in a bit less corny way), the world-building has nevertheless proven plenty intriguing enough to hold my interest. Next season needs more of Liscia, though!
I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives (3.5/5 overall): This is the one series that might top Battle Game in 5 Seconds for the season’s worst action animation, but it is at least operating from a much stronger base and more compelling character set. Both new core character additions this season are solid ones, and both story arcs ultimately came together well even if they seemed shaky at times along the way. It also featured some solid character development for its longest-term cast members. I’ll watch more if more gets animated, but I don’t have high hopes for that.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S (4.5/5 overall): At the mid-season point I certainly wouldn’t have placed this series near the top of the heap for the season, but its last few episodes have shown that the series can be entertaining and compelling even when not depending on its comedy chops. The expanded backstory about the dragons has fleshed out several characters more, leading to some scenes that were even a bit touching. And of course, the animation of the occasional action scene was fantastic, easily the best of the season. Still not a big fan of the series, but it is one that I have to respect.
Night Head 2041 (3.5/5 overall): Yeah, it’s an all-CG series, but don’t hold that against it! Despite a highly generic feel, it still managed some interesting twists in a story about a world where supernaturally-powered brothers have emerged into a modern culture which has outlawed anything spiritual or supernatural. Not a great series, but it is a better one than any initial impression it may give.
Remake Our Life! (4/5 overall): The twist at the 2/3 mark did not bother me as much as it did some others, though I find the ending more ambiguous in its propriety given what Kyoya is sacrificing to make that happen. Still, I have enjoyed this series overall and found it well-animated and supported by thoughtful developments and twists. I will be back for more.
Scarlet Nexus (3/5 overall): Honestly not sure why I stuck with this one, and it was one of the titles that I was most prone to falling behind on. Still, I did finish its first half and found it to be a mostly-mediocre tale about psychics descending into a sort of civil war scenario, with (apparently) a lot of forgotten history behind it. The Others are visually interesting, but nothing much else sticks out about it. I can see myself letting this one go given how packed the upcoming season is.
Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicles (3/5 overall): Where this season cuts off is just criminal. If more doesn’t get made then this one will rank high on the “leave the viewer hanging” rankings for recent years. Feel like the story could have done more, and I could do without the Kirito clone (heck, he was even voiced by Yositsugu Matsuoka, the Japanese voice of Kirito), but despite the series being underwhelming in a lot of respects, it never bored me.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (3/5 overall): Though this one finished pretty strong, it had such an agonizingly slow burn getting to that point that I have to penalize it on the grade. Still, Guy Crimson is a neat addition to the case, and if more gets animated then I look forward to seeing how he figures into future events.
Tsukimichi – Moonlit Fantasy- (3.5/5 overall): Yes, it’s loaded with some silly harem hijinks and features an OP protagonist, but I found the series to be quite a fun view more often than not, and the appearance of a duo near the end who could pose a threat to the protagonist was a welcome development. While it would never be a high-priority title, I would likely watch more.