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Monday Anime Round-up: First Episode Blitz!

There's some strong contenders right out the gate!

 

Reki in the opening for "SK8 the Infinity"

Welcome to the Monday Anime Round-up, a weekly series where I talk about the anime I watched over the weekend. We got a lot of first episode releases for brand new series and anime that kicked off new seasons for the winter! Because of that, this edition of the round-up will dive into all the first episodes I watched and whether or not I’m going to continue watching them for this segment.

Extra note: some heavy hitters like The Promised Neverland started its new season, but I’m still not caught up, so I haven’t watched it yet. You can check out last week’s round-up for what I plan on checking out in the future.

If you want a list of ALL the anime planned for 2021, head over to this list here from Anime Collective’s Kristen.

Spoilers for everything covered.

Also content warning (suicide mention) for one of the series: 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team.

  • Otherside Picnic episode 1: Wiggle-Waggle Hunting

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Monday

Will I be continuing it? Yep!

A series dealing with a place known as the Otherside. From what I can gather after the first episode, the Otherside exists outside of our world, and… that’s about all we got so far. The series starts off with our main character pretty much accepting her lot in life. She’s on the Otherside and seconds away from being killed by one of its bizarre creatures, only to be saved by a girl named Toriko, who seems to know a bit more about how the whole thing works.

Kinda.

Toriko is looking for a lost friend, knows how to get into the Otherside via elevator, and knows to go into the world with a gun. She also knows a bit about the strange cubes the creatures turn into when killed, or at least, she knows someone who will pay a lot of money for them. The cubes look like… miniature worlds themselves? There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but the chemistry between our two leading ladies is charming and them researching the creatures via existing urban legends is interesting.

Also, the anime is based on a series of yuri (girl/girl) light novels, so I’m ready to see girls canonically falling for each other in sci-fi anime.

  • Heaven’s Design Team episode 1: Idea 1

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

What day is it released: Thursday

Will I be continuing it? The Lord wills it, so yep!

God’s too busy to create everything so he outsources animal creation to a team of designers. Right off the bat, the concept had me interested and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. I might be wrong, but I don’t foresee any sort of overarching plot in this. We basically get a couple of segments that delve into how certain animals are created. It’s also… kinda an educational show? After each animal is made there’s a part where the characters actually discuss legitimate facts about what we just watched.

Each character has their own motivations in creating the animals they do, but you don’t just get to make whatever you want and toss it into nature. There’s an approval process and even a testing stage to make sure that long-necked horse could actually survive (and yes, this would later become a giraffe in the series).

I appreciate the character variety in the show and the fact that everyone has entertaining chemistry with one another. There are definitely clashing ideals (how can you forgive someone who makes a snake that eats the bird you made???) but it’s all done in a comedic tone. It kinda makes you anticipate how they’ll get around to making your favorite animals… though I’m forever sad that they gave an actual good reason as to why unicorns can’t exist.

  • 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team episode 1: Childhood Yuni and Chika

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Thursday

Will I be continuing it? Yep!

***Don’t forget the content warning with this one***

Another sports anime enters the chat, but this one is a lot more “feelsy” than I anticipated. I should’ve known when the episode started with Chika in the middle of a game overhearing how one of his teammates was in the hospital.

After that, we flashback to a young Chika and his childhood friend, Yuni, saying goodbye to each other and crying because they think they’ll never see each other again. That’s not the case, of course, because this is sports anime and childhood friends make volleyball boys instantly compatible.

Yuni, now in junior high, is trying to play off how excited he is for Chika to be coming back home, but you can’t lie to me, Yuni, that blush says it all! However, Chika’s completely standoffish, only concerned about volleyball and nothing else. The two do manage to bond with the sport, but when Chika learns that Yuni doesn’t take it as seriously as him he snaps.

According to the guy Yuni hangs out with after school, Chika’s extremely aggressive when it comes to volleyball. It’s here we find out that he came back home because of an incident at his old school where he pushed his teammate so hard that his teammate ended up at the hospital… after trying to kill himself.

Oh.

So this is gonna be one of those Stars Align “don’t let the cute art fool you this sports anime is gonna get dark” sort of deals, huh?

Did I mention that the episode ends with that attempted suicide reveal?

  • So I’m a Spider, So What? episode 1: Reincarnation, in Another World?

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

What day is it released: Friday

Will I be continuing it? The webbing has failed on this one, so no

Much like Heaven’s Design Team, I was all-in based on the title and the premise. The isekai genre (normal person being sucked into a fantasy/virtual/parallel world) is a frequent occurrence in anime, but the fact that it was a girl being reborn as a spider made me curious. Unfortunately, the gag stops being interesting after a couple of minutes.

First of all, you have no idea who any of the characters are. The spider is a reincarnated girl who we don’t know at all, nor do we know any of the other classmates who have been reborn as different characters in the fantasy world. It’s a bit disjointed because they keep talking about their past lives, but we never really get to see any of it.

Initially, it’s kinda funny that our spider heroine is going through the motions based on video game knowledge (and isn’t always right about it), but that’s the only joke throughout the entire episode and there’s not much else that makes you say, “I need to see what happens next.”

She’s a self-aware spider. That’s it.

She also doesn’t have anyone to play off of because she’s alone.

Everyone else who got reincarnated is, for some reason, in your typical castle setting instead of a cave. They also got reincarnated as humans… for the most part, there’s someone reincarnated as some sort of cute fantasy creature. There’s also an elf girl who I think is from the actual world? I can’t tell, I was too busy wondering why she was asking if the siblings were in an incestuous relationship. There’s also a guy reincarnated as a girl, and after the response of LOLOLOLOL from one of the other characters, I don’t think I wanna deal with where that plot thread will probably end up (I predict bad jokes).

I can’t figure out why it’s important to see this group at all? By her own admission, the girl who’s now a spider was a complete loner, so why would we care about these other characters from her class? Honestly, I think you’re fine with watching the opening and the pop idol spider ending to get the gist of the show.

  • Project Scard: Scar on the Praeter episode 1: The Town Had Its Hero

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Friday

Will I be continuing it? Oof. No

So I clicked on this on a whim because the premise sounded interesting and the preview image looked good.

And wow.

Just.

Have you ever watched something and you’re trying to pay attention to the plot but you’re too distracted by everything else? Like the odd choices in CG animation? The Ikea catalog backgrounds that the characters are placed in? The choppy movements in battle? The… everything, just everything!

That’s this series.

I can’t really tell you what happened in the first episode beyond “dual gun-wielding guy passes his magical tattoo onto the guy he was protecting” and “there’s a trio of brothers, and some other brothers, and a military force, and magical tattoos.” The animation is a train wreck, the soundtrack is telephone hold music, and the character designs are utterly unseasoned. You can tell where shortcuts are taken because characters are barely in the same frame together even if they’re having a conversation. It’s just… not great.

And now I see why people were worried about this studio (GoHands) getting Tokyo Babylon.

  • SK8 the Infinity episode 1: Snowfall on a Hot Night

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Saturday

Will I be continuing it? ABSOLUTELY

And now time for the visually stunning sports anime with characters who scream “ship me with that guy” as they skateboard toward their destiny.

This series is so much fun!

It perfectly illustrates how anime can take something like “skateboarding” and make it into an entire story arc where you become incredibly invested in the characters. This has the unique spin of it being underground skateboarding, so there isn’t that school spirit element where the kids are trying to take their school to the big tournament.

It’s all very punk scene and I love it.

Of course, we have the same staples of any good sports anime. Reki is in it for the passion of it all. Langa is the dark horse who brings his own spin on the sport since he used to snowboard. Langa also screams “tragic backstory” if that picture of him and his parents is any indication. We haven’t met many of the other characters, but there’s this vibe of some of them leading normal lives until they hit the skateboard scene. There’s also the mastermind behind “S” (the underground skateboarding race) who… I dunno what their deal is, but they’re delightfully dramatic about it.

And the animation? Chef kisses. Especially during the skateboarding segments. Langa’s skateboarding match is stunning to watch as he remembers his snowboarding days.

Also. If you need some new anime husbands in 2021. This series has got you covered, oh boy, does it EVER! And there’s a variety ranging from high school boys to big, beefy, green-haired men.

Screencap from the opening of "SK8 the Infinity"

I’m watching this series for the plot, I swear.

  • Horimiya episode 1: A Tiny Happenstance

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Saturday

Will I be continuing it? YES

Help this series is so cute!

Hori is popular amongst her classmates, but after school, she’s just a regular girl doing what she can to take care of things at home as her mother works. Meanwhile, Miyamura (Miya) keeps to himself at school, but outside the classroom, he’s a pierced, tattoed guy who would definitely catch anyone’s attention. The two find out each other’s secrets by accident (Miya brings Hori’s little brother home one day after the kid was hurt) and grow closer as they spend more time together.

When a girl at school sees the “real” Miya, Hori realizes that she wants to be the only one who sees that side of him. Miya admits that he feels the same way about her, but neither are ready to say they’re a couple… yet.

Not only is the relationship between these two off to a well-written start, but I was pleasantly surprised that even the side characters are handled well. There’s a guy in class who likes Hori and confronts Miya, but he’s not a jerk about it. In fact, he and Miya become friends. I fully expected him to go full-on petty toward Miya, but instead, he has an honest conversation with him, and I have a feeling there will be more conversations between them as Miya begins to admit how he feels for Hori.

The progression of Hori and Miya’s relationship is so heartwarming because they start out as friends and are taking time to get to know each other. You know they’re gonna get together, it’s in the dang title of the entire series! Honestly, Horimiya is set to be on everyone’s “best anime couple of 2021” list.

  • Skate-Leading Stars episode 1: Pact

Where to watch: FUNimation

What day is it released: Sunday

Will I be continuing it? No

While the anime just aired in Japan yesterday, it premiered on FUNimation 2 weeks early! That means there are already 3 episodes available to watch, but sadly, I think I’m tapping out after the first one.

I’m a sports anime fangirl through and through, but something about this one just didn’t hit me the way past (and currently airing) sports anime does. I think it might have something to do with the protagonist and his motivations. Kensei quit skating after losing to his rival, Reo, but the rivalry is completely one-sided. Kensei basically makes it up all on his own, telling Reo he’ll quit skating forever if he loses to him, and I’m watching the episode like, “Kid… who told you to do that?!” I suppose that sort of approach can be attributed to Kensei being a child at the time, also, both of his figure skating parents died so he’s probably grieving.

Yet somehow, when this kid goes to high school, no longer skating (surprise, he lost to his “rival” back then), he’s… kind of a cocky little brat. When he sees the skate-leading club at his high school he goes on about how he can’t help them. But. Um. Nobody asked for his help, he just assumes they’ll want his help because… he’s so good at ice skating, I guess?

Now I don’t mind arrogant characters (one of my faves is Bakugo for flip’s sake) but Kensei hasn’t done anything to warrant that ego he’s walking around with. The club members are quick to put him in his place because, literally, NO ONE asked you, Kensei, who can’t even look at anything ice skating related, especially if Reo’s involved.

I’m struggling to find a reason why Reo’s hated so much? Even his half brother, Hayato, is so invested in beating him that he tries to rope Kensei into facing off against Reo again. What did Reo do besides get good at ice skating? They’re trying to convince me that he’s condescending, but Hayato and Kensei are the ones doing entirely too much. For example, Hayato’s master plan to get Kensei back on the ice involves… locking a skater in the closet so Reo can take his place in an exhibition.

Make it make sense. Please.

  • Theatre of Darkness: Yamashibai 8 episode 1: Dropped Handkerchief

Screencap from Yamashibai S8E1

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

What day is it released: Sunday

Will I be continuing it? Frighteningly yes

This wasn’t on my radar before, mostly because I didn’t think this series was still going. I was introduced to Yamashibai years ago, back when my friends and I would do horror media marathons for Halloween. Yamashibai is a series of short ghost stories (about 5 minutes long) based on urban legends in Japan. Each episode starts with a storyteller guiding you into the story, the art done in a paper drama style to illustrate each tale.

I haven’t given much thought to this series since I last watched it all those years ago, but apparently, it’s been going since 2013!

Since I’m an absolute coward when it comes to horror, I’m glad that these episodes are so short. At the same time… how do they manage to scare me in just five minutes?! I plan on viewing all of these with the lights on… assuming the lights stay on. Such was the case with the first episode of the 8th season where a group of friends went exploring in a house they had no business going to. When one of them finds a handkerchief on the floor, it (unintentionally) sets of a series of horrifying events. After the episode, I found out that this actually is a game children would play, though I imagine the results weren’t this unsettling.

_

This concludes all the first episodes I watched! What first episodes did you check out over the weekend? What series are you looking forward to? I for one can’t wait for Jujutsu Kaisen to return this Friday! Expect to see that and all the series I’m going to continue watching in next week’s round-up!

(Image: FUNimation)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)