The Seasonal Anime Round-Up: Spring 2022

You might be wondering what the heck is going on. I mean, I’ve reviewed anime like clockwork ever since I started writing this blog in October of 2020. My consistency is a point of pride, actually, so I don’t change my approach lightly. I’ve just grown dissatisfied with the way I was publishing my reviews.

In the first year, I was writing like I was running out of time, putting out approximately 3,000 words a week. On its own, that’s more than manageable, but I wrote an 80,000-word book for the MAL x Honeyfeed web novel competition in two months, and that’s ignoring that I also like to write short stories, fanfiction, and more than just blog posts.

I love writing my reviews, but after the first anniversary of the blog, I went down to weekly posts. Suddenly the new anime season meant watching five shows would take a month just to put out all my reviews. I mostly started this blog to write essays about anime and manga, with reviews as a way of forcing me to sharpen my critical analysis skills, but I was barely writing any essays for months at a time.

So this season, I’m trying something new. Instead of reviewing each new anime individually, I will be tackling them all at once in bite-sized pieces. Scoring system remains the same, and this will only be new anime, not sequels. You’ll have to let me know what you think in the comments, but for now, let’s round up some anime.

Spy x Family

Studio: Wit Studio x Cloverworks

Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

I’ve been waiting for Spy x Family for years. Specifically, since it began serialization and I knew that if this series didn’t pop off, the world was beyond saving. My fears were for nothing, as Spy x Family is as popular as it is brilliant.

The nations of Westalis and Ostania have put aside wars fought on the battlefield and moved to battles that no one will ever see. They’ve been engaged in a cold war for years, resulting in the widespread use of espionage. Spy x Family follows Twilight, the fearsome master spy, as he takes on the guise of psychiatrist Loid Forger and creates a fake family to infiltrate the social circle of a reclusive warmongering politician.

His plans are upset and perhaps supported by his chance adoption of Anya, the child experiment with powers of telepathy, who immediately discovers his secret. With her help, he proposes to Yor, a a kindly office worker afraid of becoming a spinster because it will draw attention to her real job as an assassin.

Simply put, the Forgers are delightful, have sincere yet hilarious chemistry, and I can’t get enough of them. Anya is a gold mine of reaction images, and watching an ultra-cool spy and assassin work their way around a mundane domestic relationship is peak comedy. If you’re not watching Spy x Family, you’re missing out.

Entertaining Fantastic

Ao Ashi

Studio: Production I.G.

Director: Akira Satou

I love sports anime, speaking as somebody who hasn’t been interested in sports since he was twelve. They’re kind of the perfect vehicles for anime, as the medium thrives on conflicts with clear rules and metrics to judge winners and losers, while also creating smaller moments of tension between characters. A point in basketball, a stolen base, that sort of thing.

And Production I.G. specializes in sports anime, so that should be a good thing for Ao Ashi. They’ve done Haikyuu, Run With The Wind, and Kuroko Basketball, so I’d be feeling pretty good about their new soccer anime if I liked the protagonist even one iota.

This one was pretty hard to get through. In Haikyuu terms, imagine a main character with Hinata’s braindead raw athleiticism, and Kageyama’s inability to play as a team, and you’d have Aoi Ashito. It’s not unusual for a lead to have a fundamental flaw, especially in sports stories where you need teammates to compensate, but this guy just kind of sucks.

The writing and presentation have failed to wow. The music’s good, because Masaru Yokoyama did Fruits Basket and Scum’s Wish, this man does not let up, but at this point, I’m unimpressed without any reason to think this will get better.

Boring Mediocre

Tomodachi Game

Studio: Okuruto Noboru

Director: Hirofumi Ogura

Tomodachi Game is a weird ride, because I was absolutely sleeping for most of the first episode, and then moderately interested for the latter half. The premise is your basic death game anime; five friends are thrown into a competition to wipe out one person’s twenty-million yen debt, who volunteered them all for the game. It’s a mystery as to who got them here, but they’re just such gosh darn good friends that they decide to help regardless.

Except it’s not that simple. The Tomodachi Game is designed to pit its contestants against each other, and the closer their bonds, the easier they begin to crack. It’s pretty tense once the game gets going, but it’s not clear what the stakes are other than a sizable debt. I mean, twenty-million yen is a lot, but it’s not like your life is ruined. Heck, as long as you didn’t use that money for a degree in creative writing with a seventeen percent interest rate, you’ll probably be fine.

The presentation is nothing spectacular, and even though there’s the occasional good shot, Tomodachi Game just settles into its own groove of mediocrity. I won’t write it off completely, but time will tell if this is a Kaiji or a Kakegurui.

Entertaining Fine

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie

Studio: Doga Kobo

Director: Ryouta Itou

Alright, I’m at a loss. I’ve referenced the subgenre of quirky rom coms with a prominent female lead and a subdued male counterpart, usually with that girl’s name in the title, but this is getting absurd. You know what I’m talking about, even if you didn’t think it was a subgenre: Komi, Nagatoro, My Dress-Up Darling, you could count Kaguya or Horimiya if you wanted to. I used to just compare these anime and manga as an oddly specific trend, but it’s gotten to the point where there’s enough to classify it as its own type of story.

The latest series in that genre, and I’d argue the logical next step, is Shikimori Isn’t Just a Cutie, the anime made by and for guys who need their girlfriend to tell the McDonalds cashier that he ordered no pickles. In a different anime, Izumi would be the soft-spoken milquetoast protagonist who managed to acquire a harem through a series of accidental ecchi scenes and tired gags, so luckily for him and the audience, he’s dating Shikimori, the gorgeous, uber-competent envy of the school and probably the world.

Izumi is trailed by misfortune and mishaps like it’s some kind of running joke in a manga, and must be protected from this world by his too-cool girlfriend, but she kind of just wishes he would think of her as cute. Well, he does think that, but she also can roundhouse falling debris midair over his head, so cute is only the third thing that comes to mind when he thinks of her, right after badass and please, step on me.

I feel silly trying to sell you on Shikimori. Did you like any of those shows I just mentioned? Okay, then you know how you feel about this one. It looks great, has some hilarious visual gags, and I already love the leads. Plus, they’re already dating, which is a point in my book. I enjoy Kaguya’s mind games and Komi’s shy demeanor, but I also appreciate an anime that just hurries up and gives us something other than the pursuit.

Neutral Pleasing

Dance Dance Danseur

Studio: MAPPA

Director: Munehisa Sakai

This is a hard sell if you don’t just go ahead and watch it, because Dance Dance Danseur is all about the motion. It leads with a brilliant display of animation; I mean, it’s MAPPA, so maybe that’s par for the course, but it even blew away my expectations for a reputable studio. Danseur just loves to show off.

If you’ve watched anime for any length of time, you’re already probably used to how choppy hand drawn animation is. I don’t even notice anymore because TV anime just does not get great framerates. Usually, CGI or rotoscoping in anime is obvious because normal animation just can’t be that fluid.

I have no idea how they did it, but Danseur has replicated the graceful choreography of ballet with staggering clarity. I could talk to you about the story and characters, because I quite like them both, but I already did that for My Dress-Up Darling. Danseur is a lot like that, but leans way harder into “What? Boys can’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby!”

Watch it purely for the great ballet sequences, and then make your mind up about the story.

Boring Pleasing

Sorry, I’m not talking about Ya Boy Kongming because I haven’t used Hidive since they split from VRV, so I’m either going to hold off until Hidive has some more shows I want or wait until they swap spit with Hulu or Netflix. However, I recommend watching it if you can, because that opening is a banger and I need no more convincing.

But that is it for Spring 2022. It doesn’t have the raw prestige of winter with Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer fighting against an even larger threat, Marin Kitagawa, but it is carried by the strength of its comedic talent. I’ve missed Kaguya so much, this arc is a banger, plus Komi is back, Spy x Family and Shikimori deserve a lot of hype, so if you like anime that make you laugh, you’re eating well this season.

If you’re looking for a good tense thriller, I guess Tomodachi Game might help, but sorry about Summertime Render, because Mickey Mouse hates weebs. We just got done with Netflix pulling this crap, and Disney is making just about the worst first impression possible. I didn’t get to talk about A Couple of Cuckoos either, because that’s coming out too late to fit in here, but I’ll talk about it on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku if it turns out to be the dumpster fire that the manga readers promised.

So tell me whether or not you like this new format. I’m not sold on it, even if my previous method had flaws, so let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: