OTAKU YEAR IN REVIEW 2021

Hello again. Man, time sure does fly. Doesn’t seem like that long ago I was writing my year in review post for 2020. 2021 was a pretty good year for anime, I don’t watch many shows as they air unless they’re from creators I love or maybe adaptations of manga I adore, or possibly from a studio with a great track record. Sometimes I’ll jump on board due to word of mouth (Like last year’s positively brilliant Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!). This year I probably didn’t get through a big varied amount due to watching a lot of City Hunter for the article I was doing here on the blog but I still managed a handful of airing shows while clearing a few oldies off the enteral backlog as well.

Oddtaxi

Damn! What a start to 2021’s anime viewing. Oddtaxi came out of nowhere to become one of the best (If not THE best) anime show of the year (at least among the small number I saw). This extremely unique thriller featuring a colourful cast of anthropmorphic animal characters was a show I knew I’d fall in love with from the first time I heard about it. It follows the misadventures of a taxi driver called Odokawa and the various colourful characters he meets in his job, from idols to would-be influencers and yakuza thugs and how all their lives intersect in a fascinating series of vignettes with an overarching plot that keeps on thickening in every episode.

Oddtaxi is a show that shines due to its writing, characters and humour. It’s a thriller built on character conversations and interactions. It may seem simple at first but soon the plot escalates into something exciting indeed.

I could talk about this show all day but instead of me spoiling everything for you, instead just watch it.

Oddtaxi. A must-see available on Crunchyroll.

Amaim: Warrior At The Borderline

A two cour mecha show is a rare beast these days however Xebec’s old studio recently purchased by Sunrise (now named Sunrise Beyond) has created exactly that with Kyokai Senki(War machines at the borderline) or as Funimation have retitled it: Amaim: Warrior at the borderline.

Set in a future version of Japan in 2061 where the world has been divided into four ruling powers patrolled by mecha called Amaim. The Japanese people are living under military rule and constant opression. A young boy called Amou Shiba who likes to salvage machine parts has a chance meeting with an autonomous AI called Gai who helps him escape capture by the authorities after he is framed for false charges of terrorism. Gai installs himself in an old Amaim that Amou was working on in a deserted factory as a project and together they decide to take a stand and fight the military. This brings them into the path of the real terrorist group Yagaratsu who have sworn to destroy Japan’s opressors and bring peace back to their country. When Amou and Gai see what they stand for they decide to join their crusade.

Amaim is beautifully animated, exciting and at times even heartrending. Amou is an extremely likeable protagonist and the setting and world building are excellently done. Gai, the AI that assists Amou in operating the Amaim Kenbu is a cute wholesome little avatar that looks like he’d fit right into the cast of Yokai Watch. Amou soon also makes friends with the stoic Gashin Tezuka and cheerful female pilot Shion Shishibe and their AI buddies Kei and Nayuta as they battle the mysterious Amaim known as “Ghost”.

2021 has been a weird year for a myriad of reasons but Amaim gave me something to look forward to every week during the months of October to December. Every week I was excited to know what was going to happen to these characters and what direction the story would go in. A Meticulously crafted series with a few things to say about war, hope, loss, friendship, families and bonds. Not to mention the mecha are really cool too. Might have to pick up some model kits or action figures of Kenbu, Jogan and Reiki. A bit of a cliffhanger ending has meant I’m counting down the hours till its return in April.

Demon Slayer (Season One and The Movie: Mugen Train)

A friend of mine who’s a fairly casual anime fan has been telling me to watch Demon Slayer for the best part of a year and I wasn’t in any hurry because even though I was sure I’d enjoy it, it’s another shonen show and I kind of figured I’d rather spend my time on something a bit different until I was more in the mood for something of that ilk. Anyway one evening when I didn’t have much viewing lined up I decided to give it a try since the first season was on Netflix and I have to say I can see what the fuss is about. It’s perhaps not quite as hype worthy as some may have you believe but it’s a very heartfelt series that’s sad, genuinely funny and exciting often all in the same episode. The production values by Ufotable are great too. After that I also watched the movie Mugen Train on Funimation Now, which bridges the gap between seasons 1 and 2. The film is fittingly epic and follows on perfectly from the events teased at the end of the first season. It’s also a great advert for anime in HD if ever you needed one (looked stunning on my new 4K TV). Now that the second season’s started over the winter perIod I’m watching that at the moment. Although the action is great and the overall visuals and music are awe inspiring the best thing about Demon Slayer is the characters. Tanjiro is easily a contender for one of the most wholesome and caring protagonists I’ve known in modern anime. His companions Zenitsu and Innosuke are loveable too (not to mention really funny) and for that reason among others listed I’d say Demon Slayer is absolutely worth your time.

Aggretsuko Season 4

Retsuko is back! The red panda with a penchant for throat searing metal vocals returned for a 4th series of workplace drama and difficulties navigating the minefield of modern life. This series puts Retsuko at odds with her love interest Haida as he accepts a new job for a shady new business director….what are the two of them up to? Retsuko intends to find out while also coming to terms with her own feelings about Haida and listening to her conscience about the fate of her old boss Director Ton.

Season 4 is just as good as ever with its brilliant characters, subtle but clever social commentary and laugh out loud moments as well as some genuine edge of your seat ones and cliffhangers of such intrigue you’ll be dying to know what happens next. I’d say it’s one of the best shows in Netflix history and easily among the best anime Netflix has ever been involved in.

Older anime stuff I also watched in 2021:

Steel Jeeg (For Retro Mecha Podcast) Listen to episode 11 for the verdict

City Hunter (See my article on this very blog!) – A monumental undertaking involving all of the shows, specials and movies.

Fist Of The North Star: The Movie (1986) (Rewatch) All readers of my blog know I’m an uber-fan of this series.

Gundam F91 (Rewatch) A gundam movie that gets some grief from fans for some story shortcomings (was planned as a series then changed to a standalone film) but is very entertaining and beautifully animated.

Whatever, white Bear (An unusual and fascinating anime short I posted about on Twitter earlier in the year)

Spirit Hero Wataru (For Retro Mecha Podcast) Listen to episode 10 for the verdict on Wataru!

Paranoia Agent (Rewatch) If you haven’t seen this heady Satoshi Kon masterpiece you’re missing out!

Transformers: The Movie (Rewatch on 4K UHD) – My first 4K Anime! gloriously animated childhood nostalgia (still a very good movie to this day though).

Giant Gorg (Rewatch) One of Tomino’s most unique (and best) shows. A mecha series with a boy’s own adventure vibe, memorable characters and great old school Sci-fi feel and really fantasic ideas and design work.

Megazone 23 (Rewatch – First time watching in HD courtesy of the lovely new Blu ray via Animeigo’s kickstarter) Classic 3 episode OVA with mecha, virtual idols, bikers and conspiracy aplenty.

Doomed Megalopolis (Rewatch) Was interesting revisiting this supernatural drama for the first time in over 25 years, especially now with a lot more knowledge of Japanese culture and history under my belt.

Manga:

Chainsaw Man (Entire series Vols 1-11) Due to be an anime next year. Amazing series and it surprises me how popular it’s become considering it’s so unusual and subversive.

Cyber Blue (Entire series Vols 1-3) the equivalent of a really fun B-movie in manga form borrowing from all sorts of sci-fi and classic American films. Art by Tetsuo Hara of Fist Of The North Star fame.

Maison Ikkoku Vols 1-3 (Re-read) Rumiko Takahashi’s slice of life romantic drama. Probably my 2nd favourite of hers after the one below.

Mermaid Saga (Entire series) Vols 1 & 2 (Had read most of this series years ago but not every chapter). Another great Rumiko Takahashi manga, a dark horror/fantasy with some absolutely eye widening moments. I’d say it’s probably my favourite Takahashi story.

Kaiju No 8 Vol 1 A really funny, action packed and beautifully drawn read. if you like Kaiju movies you NEED this in your life.

Cobra Vol 1 (Re-read) Started a re-read of the legendary space pirate’s adventures, this time in Buichi Terasawa’s computer coloured version. Like slipping back into a nice comfy bath. Love this series.

Well that rounds up my viewing and reading from 2021. Hope you enjoyed reading about it and maybe you even found some stuff old or new to check out yourself! See you next time.

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