The Winter 2021 anime season had some truly outstanding shows, but unfortunately, not all of the anime we were looking forward to watching lived up to our expectations. Solid narratives that rushed themselves towards the end, shaky adaptations of far superior source material, inexperienced or overworked studios biting off more than they can chew... for any number of reasons (some of which definitely had to do with the pandemic delaying or canceling many anime from last year), this season just wasn’t as solid as it could’ve been. Here are five Winter 2021 anime that didn’t quite hit the mark.
Horimiya is by no means a bad anime, and it’s definitely worth your time to watch at least the first half of the series if you’re a romance fan. The main couple, Hori and Miyamura, have irresistible chemistry and help each other come to terms with the parts of themselves that they hide from the rest of the world. Using all 12 episodes to really flesh out their relationship would’ve been perfect, but unfortunately, the narrative gets distracted with side characters that it just doesn’t have time to properly develop. It turns into a compilation of “greatest hits” from the manga (which had a true ensemble cast), none of which have the emotional impact that they should because we haven’t had time to get to know these characters. An anime should be able to stand on its own and not just be a glorified advertisement for its source material.
4. Urasekai Picnic (Otherside Picnic)
Here’s an intriguing premise for an anime: throw two cute girls into a grungy sci-fi setting inspired by the classic Russian novel Roadside Picnic, add in some Japanese creepypastas and urban legends for them to investigate, and imply that they’ll develop romantic feelings for each other. The light novel Otherside Picnic is based on does this concept justice, but this adaptation falls short of greatness. Perhaps it’s because Lidenfilms stretched itself to produce four anime in one season, but the lack of polish is distractingly obvious: clunky CG, amateurish audio mixing, and plot holes caused by adapting chapters out of order are among the most noticeable issues. Even yuri fans didn’t get what they came here for – outside of a few admittedly cute scenes, Sorawo and Toriko may as well just be close friends. How frustrating!
3. Wonder Egg Priority
This ambitious anime-original series tries to tackle the tough subject of teen suicide through the eyes of four girls who fight endless waves of monsters in order to bring their friends back to life. The art direction, action choreography, and hidden symbolism are expertly done, and the friendship between the main characters is written so naturalistically that their conversations may as well be transcribed directly from real life. But what sours Wonder Egg Priority somewhat is its creepy fixation on adolescent sexuality (particularly sexual abuse) and the 12-car pile-up of production issues its staff ran into. As of now, this anime is incomplete – a special episode is set to air June 30th that promises to resolve the hastily introduced Frill subplot and tie up the miles of loose ends that are still swaying in the breeze. But no matter what magic this finale pulls out of its hat at the last minute, the flaws from the main series will still stand.
Nobody who saw Ex-Arm’s self-aggrandizing trailer was expecting it to be good – after all, “declaring war on all sci-fi series around the world” is big talk for anyone, much less a studio that has literally never made an anime before, and the PS2-quality CG certainly wasn’t helping their case. What’s surprising is that the actual series is even worse than that! It looks like a freshman’s 3D modeling midterm that they rushed to finish the night before it was due: we’ve got unnatural expressions and movements, heavily recycled stock footage, barely animated 2D characters in the same shot as barely animated 3D characters, assets, and greenscreen effects straight from free internet libraries, and glitches absolutely everywhere.
It’s certainly entertaining as an unintentional comedy, but we’re worried that it could spell the end for Crunchyroll Originals. This initiative to get more global voices in anime helped promote shows like Tower of God and Onyx Equinox to new heights, but this string of letdowns as of late (Noblesse, Gibiate, and now Ex-Arm) might shut it down completely. Don’t ruin a good thing for everyone else, Ex-Arm!
1. Yakusoku no Neverland 2nd Season (The Promised Neverland Season 2)
The Promised Neverland Season 2 isn’t anywhere near as technically inept as Ex-Arm or as plagued by production issues as Wonder Egg Priority, but it still gets the number one spot on this list because it destroyed everything that made this once-beloved series beloved in the first place. It skips past one of the manga’s best arcs, deflates any sense of danger by making everything ridiculously convenient and easy for our heroes, squanders any potentially interesting plot points through lightning-fast pacing, and ends with an honest-to-god slideshow that blazes through the last chapters of the manga so it doesn’t have to leave off on a permanent cliffhanger when it inevitably doesn’t get renewed for another season. To everyone who loved The Promised Neverland, all we can say is that we’re sorry.
There were a few other Winter 2021 anime that ended up being disappointing, namely The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter, 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team, WAVE!! -Let's go surfing!!-, Hortensia Saga, and Redo of Healer. All of them had at least some degree of potential, but were just mediocre overall. We hope that Spring 2021 allows for happier animators and higher quality content!
Do you agree with our picks? Did we leave out any anime that you didn’t like as much as you thought you would? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!