Anime Quick Reviews: Older Shows Watched in 2021 (12 Days of Anime 6)
In addition to seasonal anime, I sometimes even get a chance to try and catch up on parts of my backlog. This year wound up rather light for that (along with being rather light for everything), but I thought I’d round out my yearly quick reviews with the few series I did watch, and touch on ones I have sort-of “in progress”.
Welcome to “12 Days of Anime 2021”, a writing challenge in which I look to have an article a day for 12 days leading up to Christmas, all centered in some way on anime or anime-related topics. You can find last year’s stories at this link over on Anitay, as well as re-posts of my 2018 and 2019 series here on Medium. Big, big thanks to Stanlick for creating the header image outline template.
I mentioned a couple years ago that I had not yet seen Shirobako, PA Works’ classic series about making anime. Well, during a RightStuf or Sentai anime sale, I decided to correct this deficiency, and purchased the blu-rays, and watched the series with my wife this year over lunches while working from home.
Do-Do-Do-Donuts! The first (I believe) of PA Works’ “Girls Working” shows, Shirobako follows a group of five girls who, as part of their high school animation club, make a promise on donuts that they’ll all make an anime of their own together in the industry some day. After introducing that promise, we immediately skip ahead, finding that Aoi Miyamori (above) and Ema Yasuhara are both working for a small animation studio, Miyamori as a production assistant, and Yasuhara as an animitor. Their lives are stressful as they work to help put out a season of an anime, dealing with unreliable coworkers, overworked animators, and the general issues of working life. Meanwhile, Misa Tōdō is working for a 3-D animation company, Shizuka Sakaki is still an “aspiring” voice actress who isn’t have luck with getting roles, and Midori Imai (who was a year behind the others in school) eventually helps out as a researcher.
One of the major themes of the show is about each of the girls struggling to achieve their dreams in the “real” world, along with questioning whether those dreams are still what they really want to be doing, and/or whether they have the ability they need to achieve those dreams. These are familiar questions to many of us as we reach the working world, even when we’re not in the high-stress deadline-driven world of anime production.
The Shirobako girls are fortunate enough in their struggles to have co-workers who understand their struggles, and are able to share their own experiences and advice. At the very end, they all come together to help finish a critical series for the anime studio, realizing they’ve managed to make a big step on their way to making good on that promise they made together in high school.
I’ve talked before about PA Works’ quality animation and production work in general, so it really doesn’t need to be extolled here. The show was a great story, with relatable character struggles, beautifully animated. Rating: A+
Non Non Biyori (and Repeat)
I’ve heard good things about Non Non Biyori for some time now, so when they aired Non Non Biyori Nonstop this year, I decided it was finally time to find out what this show was all about. And what I can say is: I have become a true believer in the Cult of Renge.
Non Non Biyori is a slice-of-life comedy about 5 kids growing up and going to school out in a small rural town, who are joined by a new girl just arrived from Tokyo, who is now left to deal with the massive differences in lifestyle between the big city and the country. Thankfully, the show makes new girl Hotaru more of the occasionally flustered and/or baffled by the differences rather than the “the city is better” type of character (although they leave that role for Renge’s middle sister, who comes back every so often from attending high school in Tokyo).
If you look up “precocious” in the dictionary, you may find a picture of Renge looking back at you. Yet, she also retains a wonderful, childlike innocence to her. Between the two, we have the perfect recipe for both comedy, and the feel-goods.
But really, it’s the Renge-“Candy Store” (Kaede) relationship that really shines. Local candy store proprietor Kaede Kagayama mostly presents a gruff exterior, but early on, there’s little hints of something softer towards Renge. Then episode 10 of the first season happens, and we get the backstory of how Kaede was roped into babysitting a baby Renge, and how despite some early bumps, by the end, she’s almost more of a big sister/mother to Renge than Renge’s actual sisters (or never-seen parents).
Episode 10 of the second season, Repeat, again focuses on the Renge-Kaede relationship, with Kaede helping Renge learn to ride a bike. For as much as I love the humor throughout the show, and the general silliness, it’s this relationship I think that I love most about the whole thing, because it’s so well done. (One of my few disappointments with the last season was that they didn’t do another Episode 10 Renge-Kaede focus again.)
I think there’s an OVA or two I still need to see, and I know I need to see the movie (which I bought with the first 2 seasons in yet another sale), so I’ve still got some more Renge awesomeness to see. Maybe I’ll try and fit that in over my holiday break. Rating: A+
Anime Quick Reviews, 2021 First Half (12 Days of Anime 4)
Short reviews and grading of the anime series I watched in 2021’s first two seasons.
Anime Quick Reviews, 2021 Second Half (12 Days of Anime 5)
In which our intrepid hero finishes his reviews of the shows he watched this year, and gives each a grade.