I have often gone on the record to say that my reviews are fallible. I recommend or bash a show based on its first two or three episodes, and it is often impossible to predict where many anime can wind up. A brilliant gem in its first few episodes can fumble. Something unremarkable can develop its plot and characters into a pleasant surprise.
When I think about every review I’ve written in a season, I usually have a few regrets. I think of something i should have seen, been able to think of, or the story moves in such a way that I never could have predicted. So now, I’ve decided to slap a big old asterisk on my reviews. This is that asterisk.
This is a little bit different from my normal content; I will highlight each anime I reviewed this season and explore how my opinion has changed since they began. If this goes well, it will probably mark the end of every season, so make sure to let me know how you feel by liking the post or leaving a comment.
The Detective is already Dead is what first inspired this re-review. When I wrote my original review, I watched the first episode. It was a double-length episode, so I felt fairly confident that I had seen enough to give my thoughts. For what it’s worth, the review of the first episode holds up.
I was unable to predict that the rest of the show would drop everything remotely interesting in its premise and being a boring heap of nothing by the second episode. By that point, I was baffled. By the third, I was bored, even if the episode ended on a juicy cliffhanger. The fourth is so painfully bad it’s not funny, and I couldn’t get through the fifth.
I’m going to ignore the beach segment of the fifth episode because they aren’t going to trick me into liking this show again. The Detective is Already Dead held my interest with an iron grip after a fun promising glimpse of a Sherlock-style romcom, and whittled away that interest over the course of the next month. Unfortunately, I was wrong about The Detective is Already Dead.
That last one was a bit of a bummer, so let’s turn things around. The anime of the season, The Case Study of Vanitas, is a wonderfully weird and specific blend of many things I happen to love. Vampires, steampunk, gremlin waifus/husbandos, excellent fights, and even better fan service.
Vanitas initially came across as a decently fun action-oriented vampire story and has delivered on everything I praised it for in my review. What I did not foresee were some of the…steamier elements. I’m just saying that every time Vanitas and Jeanne get to talking, for a show that sticks to a PG-13 rating, I feel as though I shouldn’t be watching something this private.
The short version? Every single character in The Case Study of Vanitas can step on me, and I’m living for it.
Girlfriend, Girlfriend is the odd review where I have not changed my negative opinion at all, and still can’t tell you not to watch it. I was correct; it’s trashy, has a toxic and nonexistent grasp of consent or healthy relationship dynamics, and comes across as a harem comedy from 2002 that was buried for being too backwards.
With that in mind, Girlfriend, Girlfriend is consistently aware of how absurd it is, and manages to extract actual audible laughter in every episode. I don’t like its characters, the plot is so thin as to be intangible, but the set-ups for jokes and voice acting manage to carry the project.
My main reason for being critical of Girlfriend, Girlfriend in the first place was that media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As an adult with a firm grasp of that consent and relationship dynamics stuff I just mentioned, I can appreciate how silly this is. However, you can’t just watch anime and not be aware that many otaku do not have that same grasp. If you can appreciate it with a big bold label saying, “Don’t try this at home,” then Girlfriend, Girlfriend is the best dumpster fire of the season.
Remake Our Life is another glowing review that still stands. It’s close to Vanitas for my favorite of the season, but for wildly different reasons. Kyouya’s redo of his college life is everything a slice-of-life should strive to be: comforting, funny, and endearing.
The story has only gotten better as it’s had time to develop its characters. Each of Kyouya’s friends have their own quirks and journeys to make as they become artists, and both the interactions and conflicts that rise out of that are fascinating. It manages to be deep, creative, and uplifting, and I can’t ask much more of this kind of anime.
It has introduced a bit of a break in the status quo, showing Kyouya jump back to the present and see how he’s changed his life, but I don’t want to dive into actual spoilers, so I’ll leave that be. If you’re looking for a slow and playful anime with a thoughtful approach, Remake Our Life is superb. It’s the rare anime that manages complex writing with a generally light tone, and now that Horimiya is over and Kaguya-sama season three is off in the distance, Remake Our Life is a welcome newcomer.
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom was supposed to be a radically different approach to isekai. In the same way that Re: Zero and Konosuba are conscious of the genre conventions, Realist Hero did its homework and wanted to portray the logistical humdrum of the average isekai. It fails within the first episode, and continues to hit every branch on the stupid tree as it keeps on falling.
The writing manages to be both dry as burnt toast and completely ignorant of the real-world economics, civics, and pragmatism that it is so proud of. It’s a pretty bold idea that one high schooler whose life goal is to become a bureaucrat can turn a bankrupt economy around, but it proceeds to go about that in the plainest, most Civics 101 way possible.
My review stands. It’s boring, none of the characters are interesting or likable, and the presentation manages to be just a little bit off-kilter. There’s way too many good isekai out there to waste your time on the ones that don’t even try.
Not to repeat my overly negative attitude towards Realist Hero, I tried to go into Re-Main with a positive mindset, and hated it for many of the same reasons as the aforementioned isekai garbage. The most important things about a sports anime are sympathetic characters, portraying the sports in an interesting way, and flexing your animation. Water polo isn’t a big draw, you can’t drag me around waiting for it to get good, it’s not going to.
The presentation is exceedingly lackluster; if you took all the character designs and smushed them together, you would get one character with a good enough design to sit on Karasuno bench. The actual water polo sequences are just…okay. Come on, this is MAPPA! If you’re not going to give me Jujutsu Kaisen, give me Dororo, or at least Kakegurui.
I don’t care about a single character, the ones who aren’t blatantly irritating are just painfully plain. Skip.
Allow me to introduce you to Sonny Boy, who I woefully neglected to review the first time around because it came out weeks after every other show, and by that point I had too much on my plate. Not like this is directed by One Punch Man season one’s Shingo Natsume, or it’s a wild frenetic story about what would happen if a high school was transported to an alternate dimension and asked, “What if Lord of the Flies also had superpowers?”
I could tell you more about Sonny Boy, because that only captures the first episode and not even most of it, but I don’t have to. I need to convey that this was directed by the guy responsible for the good season of One Punch Man, and it’s an insane trip. Whatever you’re predicting from the first episode, you’re wrong. Sit back and enjoy.
Do yourself a favor and watch Sonny Boy, so I can atone for the sin of not recommending it in the first place.
And that is every show I reviewed in Summer 2021, plus one extra whose praises I failed to sing. Counting The Detective is Already Dead, Girlfriend, Girlfriend, and Sonny Boy, I was wrong on three anime, and right on four. I have scraped by with a win for this season.
Summer 2021 was actually a little dry compared to Winter and Spring, but it was not short on its gems and its lumps of coal. If you think I should do this every season, there’s plenty of places to let me know, like those comments down below or over on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where I talk about all the anime I’m currently watching. Until next time, thanks for reading.