Spring 2021 Anime Season First Episode Blitz (Part One)
8 new series. 8 first episode round-ups. Let's go!
Hello there, fellow anime enthusiasts, and happy “it’s finally Friday” to you all. Normally I would use this time to recap the anime I’m watching, but honestly, there’s not much I’m consistently watching since a lot of my Winter Anime series ended.
That does mean that several first episodes premiered to help us (and me) decide what series to obsess over next.
It’s truly a blessing, and a curse, because where the heck are you supposed to start?! There’s a lot of anime to sift through right now.
That’s where this write-up comes in!
Or at least attempts to come in, we’ll see how it goes.
I’ve watched a couple of first episodes for series that looked interesting to me, but as I said in the title, this is part one, with part two (hopefully) going up next week since there’s even more series to watch as of today.
Where to watch: Funimation
Synopsis: It’s 1923, and until recently, vampires kept to the shadows. When the mysterious blood source Ascra appears, their numbers swell, leaving Japan covered in bodies. In response, the government spawns its own coven to infiltrate the dark. With S-rank vampire Defrott and the rookie Kurusu, this kill squad is made for one reason: to hunt the undead. Bloodsuckers beware; the night belongs to Code Zero!
Worth checking out episode 2? A somewhat vampiric yes.
I’m a fan of supernatural stories where the supernatural force is an understood part of life. In MARS RED, it’s already understood that vampires exist and that they’re a threat, so much so that the government decides that the only way to beat that threat is to use it to their advantage. They don’t just kill every vampire they come across, they actually take the time to study them to see if they’d be a good candidate for Code Zero, the task force that’ll use vampires to hunt vampires. This is sure to raise a lot of questions when it gets to the point where we actually see vampires working with humans to eliminate their own kind (that hasn’t happened yet, we just get to see the government taking interest in a potential candidate).
The other thing I liked is how vampirism works in this world. The actress we meet continues to repeat the lines from the play she was in because that was the last thing she was doing before she died. She has moments where she breaks out of that trance to have conversations with Yoshinobu Maeda (the man who is appointed as the captain of Code Zero), but for the most part, she’s stuck reliving her final moments.
We don’t meet too many characters in this first episode, but the one who stands out the most is Defrott, an actor who, without even having to look at the synopsis, is clearly something out of the ordinary. I want to see more of him, and more vampires in general.
Joran the Princess of Snow and Blood
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
Synopsis: The year is 1931. Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu is 94 years old and holds absolute control over Japan. Remnants of the Meiji era’s culture can be seen around the city, but scientific technology and Japanese esoteric cosmology Onmyodo are also developing, exuding a sense of modernity. Yet lurking behind the glitz is Kuchinawa, a dissident group planning the assassination of the prince, and effectively the fall of the regime. Tasked to extinguish these dissidents is Nue, the government’s secret executioner group. Sawa Yukimura, who works for this organization, suffered from an early age at the hands of the Kuchinawa boss. Her entire family was murdered and she dedicated her life to avenging their death.
Worth checking out episode 2? The blood in the snow says yes.
The art style alone was enough to pique my interest, but then we were treated to female assassins who have weapons like “umbrella that shoots arrows” and “snow-white bird that triggers a blue fiery transformation sequence.” Our lead character (Sawa) is a quiet, elegant young woman by day and ferocious warrior at night who goes up against monstrous creatures. The same can be said for Elena, the badass sex worker who often clashes with Sawa, but like, I kinda love her? And her umbrella? I would actually love more of her, please.
We haven’t seen much of the group the ladies are fighting against, but we did get to see the tragic backstory of Sawa’s family being killed by them. Sawa’s out for revenge, the anime starting off with a battle that I’m pretty sure is her going up against the one who slaughtered her loved ones. We don’t see the result of that fight, the anime, instead, flashing back to give us the build-up to what will probably be an epic battle.
Where to watch: Funimation
Synopsis: When Yomogi Asanaka, a first-year student at Fujiyokidai High School, meets Gauma, he claims to be a “kaiju user.” But the appearance of a kaiju followed by the entry of the gigantic robot, Dynazenon, backs up his mysterious words. And after Yume Minami, Koyomi Yamanaka, and Chise Asukagawa end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, they get dragged into the desperate fight against the kaiju!
Worth checking out episode 2? Yes, and I’ll form the head!
What in the Frosted Mini-Wheats hell is this and why do I love it so much?!
For anyone who’s a fan of things like Power Rangers and Voltron and the whole “group of heroes come together to form bedazzled mech” genre, this anime is for you. Apparently, this is part of a whole franchise?! The Gridman Universe?!
What I love about this series is the lack of explanation and the fact that every character (except Gauma) gets dragged into this with question marks floating above their heads. What is a kaiju? What is that giant robot?? Why are we inside of it??? In classic anime fashion, this is all triggered by the fact that our main character, Yomogi, is just too nice for his own good. All he did was give Gauma food, now Gauma won’t leave him alone.
Gauma is a whole ass mess, not at all trying to hide the fact that he’s a kaiju user, then again, it’s not like it sounds like a viable, believable occupation.
Until it is.
The animation. The music. It triggers that part of me that accidentally discovered Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon at Blockbuster and piloted a rollerskating robot.
I am slightly suspicious of Yume, though, our main female protagonist who keeps saying how there’s something wrong with her.
I dunno… is there?
Those Snow White Notes
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
Synopsis: When Setsu’s grandfather died, so did Setsu’s “sound”— his unique creative spark. Grieving, he goes to Tokyo to find himself… but manages to become totally, literally lost on his first day. Only a chance meeting with Yuna — aka Yuka, the hostess — saves him from being robbed. At first glance, their lives seem totally different, but they’re both striving for their dreams — hers, of being an actress, and his, of developing his talent with the shamisen — and it could just be that life in the raucous, unfeeling urban sprawl of Tokyo could just be what binds their fates together.
Worth checking out episode 2? Like a shamisen to the heart, yes.
I can already tell this is gonna hurt my heart.
Losing your inspiration after the death of a loved one is extremely relatable. The twist is that Setsu’s inspiration (his grandfather) actually told him to stop playing the shamisen before he died. This is because Setsu was imitating him instead of developing his own sound. That’s a pretty painful double whammy. How do you regain the sound your lost when grieving AND dealing with the fact that the source of your grief criticized your playing?
On the flip side, Yuna’s also trying to find her way when it comes to the art she’s passionate about (acting). Turned down over and over again, she puts on a bravado of not giving up, but it gets harder each day, especially since she has a boyfriend who’s clearly using her. She eventually decides to pursue something else career-wise, something I was surprised to see in the first episode, and something that I hope doesn’t take her out of the series since I did enjoy her as a character.
I think what I like the most about this series is that it’s being told with such a traditional Japanese musical instrument, the shamisen. This isn’t the first “music makes you feel things” anime I’ve fallen in love with (Given and Kids on the Slope are fantastic), but this might be the first one where I’ve seen a character use the shamisen.
The episode ends in a rather “wtf” kinda way that kinda pulls you out of the moment, but I’m sure we’ll get an explanation in the next episode.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
Synopsis: First-year high school student Tatsuya Yoigoshi is a former ace soccer player who dislikes sports. He gets invited to join a team for the contact sport kabaddi. He scoffs at the idea at first but becomes interested after watching a kabaddi practice.
Worth checking out episode 2? Kabaddi kabaddi kabaddi (translation: I don’t know how I feel about this one).
I truly wish I could tell you that I loved this series, or hated it, but as it stands I’m just… indifferent about it? It might be the first sports anime in human history where I’m actually more interested in the sport than the characters. I had no idea what kabaddi was, but after reading up on it, it totally sounds like something I would’ve played the shit out of in middle school.
It’s like the most extreme version of tag I’ve ever seen in my life and it looks incredible.
That being said… I’m kinda lukewarm about the anime.
I’m not saying every sports anime has to win me over in one episode, but honestly, it usually doesn’t take me that long to feel attached to at least one of the characters. None of the characters stand out much to me in this. There’s interesting bits about them, like Tatsuya hating sports because of how people reacted to how good he was in soccer, and how he gets blackmailed into playing because he wants a successful YouTube channel and one of the guys on the kabaddi team can get him subscribers, but I don’t actually feel anything for him as a character. Those are cool anecdotes, but for some reason, I’m kinda meh about him, and everyone, really, save for maybe the bald powerhouse.
I dunno what it is that’s not connecting for me. Is it the animation? Tatsuya’s piss-poor attitude? The lengthy amount of word vomit to explain the rules that doesn’t have many animations to go along with it? Maybe it’s because the sport itself is so fascinating to me, but the ones playing it aren’t. One of the main draws for me when it comes to sports anime is the characters. The sport, usually, is just a tool the series uses for us to get attached to the characters. It’s an easily identifiable way to put characters in intense, emotional situations, but at the end of the day what we usually end up talking about is Reki (SK8 the Infinity), or Yuri (Yuri!!! on Ice), or Kuroko (Kuroko no Basket), or Hinata (Haikyu!!) first, THEN we follow up with the sport, whatever amazing performance happened, and how badly we want our favorite characters to come out on top.
As it stands, all that impressed me in this episode is kabaddi, and if I’m not interested in the characters I don’t see myself watching an entire season of this.
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
Where to watch: Funimation
Synopsis: NiaLand is an A.I. theme park that brings dreams to life with science. Vivy, the first autonomous android to work there, has hopes of making people happy with her singing. One day, an A.I. teddy bear named Matsumoto appears, claiming to have come from 100 years in the future — where a war between A.I. and humans rages. Their century-long journey starts now!
Worth checking out episode 3? After the two-episode premiere, the A.I. bear says yes.
Talk about a HOLY SHIT start to a series. The series immediately shows you what the war-torn future looks like, and it ain’t at all pretty. It’s violent. It’s destructive. And it all talks place in the happiest place on Earth (at least, that’s what I’m assuming NiaLand used to be called). 100 years before that, though, Vivy was an ordinary android with a dream to sing on a bigger stage. All that changes when she meets Matsumoto, who she initially thinks is a virus, and finds out is a program sent to the past to prevent the mayhem of the future.
From inside a teddy bear.
You had to be there.
Even if we (the viewer) know the importance of the mission, the way Matsumoto goes about it is questionable. Vivy brings up valid points of having one mission: to sing, and really, what’s so wrong with wanting to complete your main goal in life? Especially since ALL androids are programmed with ONE mission? There are times where Matsumoto tries to make Vivy do things she doesn’t want to do, and despite the severity of the situation, I can’t help but feel for her insistence that he do NOT invade her space.
It’s also interesting seeing an android who isn’t an automatic badass fighting genius. That’s not what she’s been programmed to do, so no, she isn’t gonna know how to deal with major threats. That doesn’t mean she isn’t capable, though, and I like that she’s trying to figure things out her own way.
I also don’t trust the bear. Like. At all. Then again, I never trust plots that revolve around changing a terrible future, because more often than not, the future is set, and trying to change it will only make things worse. This becomes apparent when Vivy’s allowed to try and save a life that’s been deemed as being important to the future but is forced to stay back when another life is at stake, but that person isn’t important to the overall mission – at least, according to Matsumoto.
Dragon Goes House-Hunting
Where to watch: Funimation
Synopsis: Letty is having a monster of a bad day. He can’t fly, breathe fire, and was just kicked out of his family’s lair. Hapless and homeless, this beast needs new digs, but where to start? Enter Dearia, the Demon Lord of Real Estate, making buyers’ dreams come true. Alas, that unique fixer-upper listing shown was infested with a horde of undead squatters — and no fireplace. House-hunting can be a beast!
Worth checking out episode 2? Yes, let’s get this good boy a home!
It’s House Hunters meets oh so many fantasy tropes and I adore it, especially since Letty the Dragon is illustrated as, well, a dragon. Despite his UwU personality, he very much looks like a ferocious dragon. However, all he wants to do is live a peaceful life where he isn’t harassed by heroes trying to make a name for themselves by slaying a dragon. Treated as a disgrace to all dragon-kind (though technically, he did lose track of a dragon egg), Letty can’t seem to find a place that he can call home. All the other supernatural creatures of the land either wanna hoard his scales and horns, or they live too high up in the trees and he can’t fly.
Dearia is the only hope he has (that’s the ridiculously OP, extremely handsome Demon Lord). Dearia seems to be a fan of helping creatures who have suffered at the hands of those terrible humans who keep picking on them in an attempt to be labeled as “heroes.” While the first episode doesn’t show Dearia and Letty fully coming together, I can already imagine the hijinks they’re gonna cause.
Though honestly, if folks would just let Letty live his life, things would be fine.
Farewell, My Dear Cramer
Where to watch: Crunchyroll
Synopsis: With no soccer accomplishments to speak of during the entirety of Sumire Suou’s junior high school years, the young wing gets an odd offer. Suou’s main rival, Midori Soshizaki, invites her to join up on the same team in high school, with a promise that she’ll never let Suou “play alone.” It’s an earnest offer, but the question is whether Suou will take her up on it. Thus the curtain opens on a story that collects an enormous cast of individual soccer-playing personalities!
Worth checking out episode 2? Sadly, no
I actually stopped partway into the first episode. The animation is just… not great. The running animation is choppy and there’s shots where a character’s head will just straight up go through a fence.
I couldn’t get past it, which is a bummer because I want more female-driven sports anime. I also liked how, in the beginning of the episode, there was commentary about girls’ sports not getting the same kind of recognition, so much so that the girl we were following wanted to play on the boys’ team because she assumed the girls’ team would be useless. But the animation pulls me right out of it, even some of the character designs are a bit off to me.
Unlike Burning Kabbadi, where I couldn’t pinpoint what was throwing me off, I know exactly what it is that missed the mark for me.
That’s it for now, everyone! Come back next week for another round of first episode thoughts from new Spring Anime releases!
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