ANIME REVIEW | Winter 2021 Returning Series
There was a time where I felt like I had to keep on hoping and wishing for my favorite anime series. Now, not only are great anime getting new seasons green-lit, but they’re be released on a monumental scale! But can these new seasons live up to their predecessors, or will they taint the quality of the series overall? Let’s find out when we look back at the shows that came back at full force in Winter 2021! (Click here to read my thoughts on the season season of Uma Musume: Pretty Derby!)
Dr. STONE: Stone Wars (Season Two)
Riichiro Inagaki and BOICHI’s Dr. STONE is a smart man’s shonen, one that uses the powerful mind rather than the bulbous muscles. For its second season, Senku and the Kingdom of Science faced off against Tsukasa and his Kingdom of Might. Not only did we get our tearful reunion between Senku, Taiju, and Yuzuriha, but we also saw just how much everyone has evolved since we last left them.
The MVP of Season Two no doubt goes to Chrome, who uses his wits to not only break out of jail when captured, but also to outsmart even the wildest of Tsukasa’s allies. He may not have the knowledge of 21st century technology, but Chrome showed that he can adapt well to such an environment. Of course, outshining even the smartest of people in Dr. STONE are the reinventions Senku comes up with, with his Gorilla Tank being not just a hilarious sight to behold, but also pretty badass to watch in action.
As a follower and reviewer of its original manga, Dr. STONE’s anime adaptation has shined as one of the best in years. TMS Entertainment’s treatment of the source material has demonstrated how well BOICHI’s art works in animated form. (They know how to capture the pain of being smacked in the nards, that’s for certain!) With a third season focused on the next arc now in the cards, Dr. STONE is on task to being the most imaginative and exciting anime to grace televisions this century!
The Promised Neverland: Season Two
Well let’s rip this Band-Aid off swiftly. The first season of The Promised Neverland was mesmerizing, as we watched Emma, Norman, and Ray attempt to break out of the orphanage before they become alien food. Between this and Dr. STONE’s first season, it was tough to choose which was the better Shonen Jump adaptation of 2019. However, after what occurred with its second season, it’s clear that Senku is the smarter and more focused of the heroes in this realm.
Season Two of The Promised Neverland continues with the former Grace Field House kids attempting to survive their surroundings. At first, things were going well with the adaptation, with the proper steps being made to craft this new world the kids were in. However, when key characters from the manga never showed up and Norman’s return being rushed, it seemed like the writing was on the wall for what would be a bad adaptation of a once-great anime.
If you never read the original manga, then you probably wouldn’t have felt this way. With that being said, with its PowerPoint-like presentation during its last few minutes, it became apparent that anime-only viewers were missing a huge chunk of things. Which is why by the time the final scene rolled by, there really wasn’t much to celebrate regarding season two of The Promised Neverland. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m having better thoughts about Amazon’s upcoming live-action adaptation after viewing this trainwreck!
The Promised Neverland can be viewed on Funimation. It has been licensed by Aniplex of America.
Laid-Back Camp: Season Two
By the time it was about air the season two finale, I had a realization: Laid-Back Camp just may be my all-time favorite anime. Its first season brought back this love for the great outdoors that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid, as Rin, Nadeshiko, and the Outdoor Activities Club learned how to embrace the tent life with sweetness and humor. Season Two demonstrated not just how powerful an iyashikei anime can be, but also why they’re an absolute necessity!
Nadeshiko grew more thanks to her first experience camping on her own, letting her feel exactly how Rin does when in solo mode. Rin, on the other hand, realized just how wonderful it is to camp with your closest friends. The humor from Chiaki, Aoi, and even Ena (the three of which experience a nearly-dangerous kind of camping) was timed so perfectly, with the balance of calmness and hard-hitting comedy bringing the most heartiest of laughs of the season. But it was when everyone camped in Izu when everything just came together in such a harmonious way.
I love Laid-Back Camp, and I’m sad that Season Two has come to an end. There’s plenty more to come, with a movie arriving sometime next year (which I seriously hope Crunchyroll simulcasts). Until then, I’m going to dive into Gemdrops’s virtual reality games, and pretend to experience Japan’s gorgeous nature through the eyes of these two cinnamon rolls!
Non Non Biyori Nonstop (Season Three)
While Laid-Back Camp embraced Japan’s best spots to pitch a tent, Non Non Biyori gave a big bear hug to the nation’s countryside. As Renge, Hotaru, Natsumi, and Komari took each day in stride, there was a enough cuteness and silliness to keep viewers coming back for more each week. In its third season, Non Non Biyori gave its viewers something they never expected: closure.
Like the first two seasons, Non Non Biyori Nonstop focused on Renge’s first year in elementary school and Hotaru’s adjustment to the countryside. There are also new faces in the crowd, in the form of high schoolers Konomi & Akane and Renge’s new friend Shiori. Per usual, the kids of the small town of Asahigaoka get up to some fun via a robotic arts & crafts project, a tense parent/teacher conference, and the magic of owning your own pair of handcuffs.
However, the (seemingly) final season of Non Non Biyori also focused on what it means to move on to the next part of your life. There are tearful moments when Kazuho and Kaede reflect on when the students were still young, as well as a touching moment when Suguru graduates from middle school. While there aren’t any official goodbyes had, this does seem like it’s the final season of Non Non Biyori (especially with the original manga just ending). Fortunately, they ended things on a beautiful cherry blossom-filled note!
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Season Two (Part One)
Even with the isekai genre overwhelming the anime realm, there’s something about That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime that makes it stand out from the rest of the crowd. Perhaps it’s the world-building elements, or its way with a good gag or a powerful action sequence. But as we were teased with what was to come in the second season thanks to the many OADs that came out in 2020, viewers unfamiliar with the source material were more than likely taken aback by what was unleashed!
Season Two continues off where both Season 1 and the OADs left its viewers, as Rimuru continues to make a name for the Jura-Tempest Federation. But some kingdoms are not pleased with the slime’s rise to power, seeing the nation more as a threat on their fortune than a possible ally. When the unthinkable happens, Rimuru must become a Demon Lord in order to set things right. And when the plan sets in motions...well, I don’t wanna ruin the surprise!
It may have its flaws, but That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime keeps demonstrating just how well-rounded of a series it is. While we’ll have to wait a few months to see how the second season ends, we’ve at least got more slime time with the spinoff currently airing. All in all, the action, comedy, and even heart of Rimuru Tempest and their nation of monsters is always a welcoming sight to behold, even when the isekai well seems to have dried up.
Cells at Work!! (Season Two)
Cells at Work has this great mixture of entertainment and educational value. It blends high-octane action with interesting tidbits about the human body, in ways that make it both fun and informative. So why do I feel so short-changed with its second season?
Lasting only eight episodes, Cells at Work!! continues to showcase the day-in-the-lives of the little things that keep our bodies running. This time, the cells deal with the threats of acne, the Mumps, and even the return of the dreaded Cancer Cell. However, despite the foray of knowledge that this season dished out, its visuals and execution suffered from a sever downgrade. So much so, that not even the cutest of Platelets couldn’t rescue it from an average run.
Perhaps it was a mistake to run the new season alongside the spinoff Cells at Work: Code BLACK, which wound up being the funnier and more interesting of the two. A shame, as there’s a lot of greatness that can be found both in the original manga and first season. It may have needed just a little more time than it was given to execute it properly, but we’ll obviously never know that. As it stands, Cells at Work is still a good show, but its second season really didn’t do it any favors.
Attack on Titan: The Final Season(?)
I don’t give Attack on Titan enough credit. While I know it’s a great anime, and it has a huge following in the fanbase, it’s never one of the first shows that comes to mind when I think of some of the recent great shows. The Final Season (which it really wasn’t, FYI) made me look the show right in the eye and realize how amazing of a story it is!
I’ve mentioned this in a past episode of the No Borders No Race podcast, but I was very impressed with the way the narrative handled itself. As Eren goes rogue and Mikasa & Armin try to find the friend they once knew, the world of Attack on Titan places its focus on the real victims of war: the bystanders. Even with both sides claiming to do all of this for the greater good, their message doesn’t ring well when they keep staining the streets with blood. It also takes the wall that separates heroes from villains, and smashes it to bits.
Even as the season ended, I couldn’t find myself rooting for either side. Perhaps that’s the point of Attack on Titan, as good and evil can sometimes become one and the same. A harsh lesson to learn, especially with the way the series began way back in 2013. But a memorable story needs to do that to keep its audience on the edge of their seats. In my case, Attack on Titan’s (not) final season made me fall out of my chair. It hurts, but it was quite the rush!
Any shows we missed? Agree or disagree with our thoughts? Comment below to share your favorite moments (and least-favorite moments) in returning anime from Winter 2021!
Promotional consideration provided by Ellation and HIDIVE