Welcome to our most anticipated anime feature for the fall 2021 season. Below you’ll find our editorial team’s top (tentative) picks from the 45-odd shows slated to premiere in October. What are your favorite picks? Head on over to our poll and pick your top five. We’ll publish the results before preview guide launches on October 1. Also, if you’re still having a hard time choosing what to add to your queue, or you’re just down for a good time, Anime News Network‘s Fall 2021 Trailer Watch Party is happening on YouTube on Wednesday, at 5:00pm PDT/8:00pm EDT with voice actor SungWon Cho!
Most Anticipated: Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2
Mushoku Tensei‘s anime has done a fantastic job bringing the novel’s world to life. Judging by the trailer, those lavish production values are extending to the second cour as well. The story might have had its rough spots in the first cour, but it’s now evolved into a grand fantasy adventure in an unfamiliar land. The story has already hit us with a game-changing twist, and from here, I expect to see the scale expand in new directions. Also, good news—the horny baby has grown up.
Runner-Up: Komi Can’t Communicate
This is a pretty obvious choice given all the hype surrounding the manga, but I expect that this show will be a light-hearted and easy watch. I can see the appeal in watching a cute and awkward girl try to make friends; it scratches both the romcom and the “relatable” content itches at the same time. Hopefully, the jokes get across well in animated form.
Most Anticipated: Lupin the 3rd Part 6
Towards the end of 2018’s Lupin the Third: Part 5, one of my favorite anime of that year, the main characters just stop to discuss and reckon with the series’ thesis in-universe: Should Lupin III, as an institution, continue to persist in the modern media landscape? The answer they arrived at is profoundly simple and endearing: as long there are people around who want to keep watching Lupin III, then Lupin will keep on being Lupin. I am one of those watchers, and so I’m all too elated to see everyone’s favorite unstoppable thief come back for a sixth round. And while I had some trepidation at this being a clean break from those preceding blue-jacket series and all the new elements that were introduced into the continuity there, the new revelations we have for Lupin’s apparent return to the green threads come off pretty dang hype.
Yes, the promise of the gang heading to England to take on Sherlock Holmes (an incredible long-form payoff to one of the more famous of Maurice Leblanc‘s Arsene Lupin stories if there ever was one) is exciting enough, but bringing in Mamoru friggin’ Oshii to direct this new anime? It feels like anything can happen at this point, and that promise of a fresh, unpredictable foray into the future is exactly one of the key elements I loved so much about that previous Lupin entry.
Alright, I know I’m gambling on this one. I mostly associate studio Satelight with putting together the action on my beloved Symphogear, but they’ve had plenty of misses as well. And this appears to be writer/director Jun’ichi Wada‘s first time helming a series directly at the top like this. I didn’t even get to see the preview of the first episode a few months ago, so I really have no context for how Sakugan‘s going to turn out beyond the trailers we’ve seen. But – and stick with me here – it does look very, very cool. Sometimes showing off the potential for some wild and crazy mecha action (especially in a season that looks like it’s going to be delivering pretty hard for the mecha genre overall) with pretty character designs and snappy animation is enough to get my attention. Will it be able to hold that attention beyond the fancy-pants first episode? Who knows, but to let myself get fatigued to the point of not being able to get excited about brand-new anime would be an unfair sacrifice of my wonder with the medium, and so I must relent, and look forward to Sakugan if only to satisfy the easily-excited teenager who still dwells within me.
Most Anticipated: Lupin the 3rd Part 6
In 1979, an up-and-coming director named Hayao Miyazaki made his feature film directorial debut with the Lupin the 3rd film, The Castle of Cagliostro. The movie redefined the titular character and helped solidify the franchise‘s popularity for decades to come. So when it came time for the next film in the series to be made, another up-and-coming director was chosen: Mamoru Oshii—the man who would one day go on to direct the seminal cyberpunk anime film Ghost in the Shell. Yet, in 1985, when the next Lupin the 3rd film, Legend of the Gold of Babylon, was released, Oshii was no longer involved in the project.
So, why am I rambling about a canceled Lupin III film from 36 years ago when I’m supposed to be explaining why I am dying to watch Lupin the 3rd Part 6? Because at least one episode in Part 6 is written by Oshii himself. Now, after decades of mystery, we may finally get to see some of his Lupin vision in all its animated glory. Lupin’s return to his original green and black look has never seemed so apt.
Runners Up: 86 Season 2, Platinum End, Sakugan, and Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside
Beyond Lupin the 3rd, I’m pumped for more 86. It’s been so hard to keep from reading the novels after the cliffhanger that ended the last season and I’m ecstatic that the wait is nearly over. As for new series, there’s Platinum End from the creator of Death Note, which looks like it continues the tradition of mixing suspense with the supernatural. It also gives off serious Future Diary vibes with its last-person-alive-becomes-god death game, which is nice. Banished from the Hero’s Party comes with a super interesting magic system that can be seen as a deconstruction of fantasy tropes. Basically, in mid-childhood, each person receives a divine role (i.e., herbalist, assassin, hero, etc.) that defines what they will become—altering that person’s personality in the process. And lastly, there is Sakugan which, if the first episode is anything to go by, is about the struggles of being a single father as much as it is about killing monsters in a mecha suit.
Most Anticipated: The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window
There are actually quite a few shows (yes, mostly adaptations of things I’ve read and enjoyed) that I’m looking forward to this fall, but the top of my list is undoubtedly The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window. It’s a paranormal mystery based on the manga of the same name by Tomoko Yamashita, and if it doesn’t precisely defy its genre tropes, it uses them extraordinarily well. The story follows three main people, Mikado, Hiyakawa, and Hiura, all of whom have distinct ties to the supernatural world and very probably to the same enigmatic figure who has led at least one dangerous cult. While Hiura and Hiyakawa have been enmeshed in the paranormal since they were little, Mikado forms our point of entry to the story: he’s got the ability to see ghosts and spirits depending upon whether his glasses are on or off, and he’s actively spent his life trying to avoid them. That all changes when he meets Hiyakawa, a private detective and exorcist who ropes Mikado into working with him on paranormal cases. Hiura, a high school girl, is intimately involved in the first major case that the duo work on, but all three characters’ roles evolve as the story goes on, defying simple good guy/bad guy classifications.
In fact, there are no easy answers for anything in this story – Hiyakawa most of all. His relationship with Mikado forms one of the most interesting and fraught components of the narrative, with early double entendres (SO many double entendres) giving way to a more emotionally complex partnership that may or may not truly involve sexual tension and romantic interest. The source manga is published in a BL magazine and by Viz‘s SuBLime imprint, but as with Given before it, there is plenty to appeal to a non-BL reading/viewing audience. There are no easy answers in The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window and that’s what makes it such a good series. I’m very much hoping that the anime can capture what makes it so good.
Runners Up: Mieruko-chan, The Faraway Paladin
Oddly enough, the show that’s my second pick is also a paranormal story: Mieruko-chan. Also based on a manga I enjoy, this time by Tomoki Izumi, the story follows Miko, a high school girl with the very much unwanted ability to see ghosts and monsters. (Am I developing a fondness for this kind of story?) Although this one starts out on the goofier side with monsters groping Miko and her friend unknown to anyone but poor Miko, it quickly takes a turn for the bittersweet and serious as we learn that not all of the ghosts Miko sees are angry or distorted. In fact, by the third volume of the manga, things get downright severe in terms of danger and tragedy. That does make it a real risk that the anime adaptation will have trouble balancing the tone, something that I find animation has a harder time with than static images, and I am concerned that the adaptation will lean into the mean humor aspects that pop up mostly in volume one. But like with The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window there’s plenty of trope manipulation and meaty plot to dig into, and I’m tentatively hopeful that this will be good.
Rounding things out is The Faraway Paladin, which has, no contest, one of the best first novels in a light novel series that I’ve ever read. Emotionally complex and fascinating, the story takes the basic isekai premise and blends it with a dark, but not grimdark, sword-and-sorcery fantasy world, resulting in a book that feels much more like the sort of fantasy that you’d find in a D&D-inspired title than your more typical light novel. Will’s coming of age journey is fascinating and beautiful, and even with only four characters in the first book, the story feels complete. I’m honestly more worried about this adaptation because I have such strong feelings about the book, which is why it’s not my top pick. But if it wasn’t on your radar, consider checking it out, because if they do it right, it’s going to be wonderful.
Most Anticipated: Sakugan
I’m a simple man. You show me a humanoid mech that transforms into a vehicle, and a bright yellow exclamation point pops into existence above my head like a video game NPC. Sadly the diminished presence of mecha anime has made it increasingly rare to get that dopamine fix, but studio Satelight has been quietly keeping that proud tradition alive for years now, and look to continue with this new sci-fi series. The premise, following a single dad and his precocious daughter plundering the unknown depths of an underground labyrinth in a transforming work robot, stands out immensely compared to the other mech offerings coming this season, and the previews promise an adventure full of both exciting action and potentially devastating emotional moments. Between all that, the expressive and cartoon-y character designs, and an opening theme by Masaaki Endoh – well, all they need to do is add in an element about music and this would be as Made For Me as possible. There’s of course room for disappointment, but even if the series doesn’t turn out stellar, I’m guaranteed to be sticking around for the ride.
Runner-up: 86 Season 2
Put this one down as something I never would have expected to pick six months ago. Pretty much everything leading up to 86‘s release had me expecting a clumsy, boilerplate light novel adaptation tripping over itself to say something “Important” to prove its own intelligence. Instead, the first cour of this series turned out to be a stunningly well-made adaptation, capturing a surprisingly thoughtful and human contemplation of the systems and discrimination that perpetuate war. At its best, the show was a hauntingly beautiful, if equally bleak, story of dystopia that could stand with the best of sci-fi anime. My only real hang-up about this coming second cour is that part 1 kinda felt like it said all it needed to, leaving on a
definitive and intensely affecting final image. So I’m not sure what this continuation could say in its own right or how it’ll be able to follow up its predecessor. But if this season is even half as strong as the original, it’ll still be a competitor for best of the year.
Outside of that, there are a few others I’ve got my eye on. The Heike Story has already released a few episodes, and struck me with its beautiful and expressive animation, melding Naoko Yamada‘s fantastic eye for body language with Science SARU‘s unique minimalist approach to design. Ranking of Kings looks equally gorgeous and idiosyncratic with its art, with a fair bit of whimsy on top of its fantasy setting. World Trigger season 3 promises to cover some of my favorite parts of the manga, and with this new production’s revamped animation I’m thrilled to see what they have to offer. And while I don’t have much attachment to Komi Can’t Communicate, I am definitely excited at the apparent abolition of Netflix Jail it and Blue Period‘s release presage.
Most Anticipated: Ranking of Kings
This is a pretty stacked season with roughly 45 shows set to premiere in the next two weeks. Last season was a little thin for me, not because of lack of shows but because there were fewer things that piqued my interest. Not so this time around! I actually had a really difficult time picking just two anime to highlight. I’m sure plenty of folks reading this column right now are eager for the continuation of Demon Slayer, but I’m going to have to give my top slot to Ranking of Kings. The series, based on a highly recommended manga, is a return to a classic fantasy setting without the isekai trope attached. More important than that, I was incredibly impressed by its most recent trailer. The animation looks good and the overall art style is reminiscent of children’s story drawings. The project’s director is relatively new, but the series’ writer has worked on some of my other favorite series like 91 Days, Moriarty the Patriot, and the Fruits Basket remake.
If I had it my way, all October anime seasons would be horror heavy, but I’ll take what I can get. Mieruko-chan promises some creepy monsters mixed with the main character’s “don’t look at it” approach to coping with her new abilities. I haven’t read the manga, but I’ve heard that it initially starts off with some not-so-savory pervert monsters, so while I have some trepidation going into it, I’m holding out hope that it isn’t the primary mode of horror for the show.
I’m also tentatively interested in “Deji” Meets Girl based on the art style alone, Blue Period because as a former art school kid I need the angsty drama, and takt op. Destiny looks way too cool to ignore. Gimme those conductor battles!
Most Anticipated: Sakugan
This season is a bit of an odd one for me; out of everything coming out, the only one I have any kind of prior familiarity with is My Senpai Is Annoying!, which I read to review about a year ago and didn’t much care for. Thus, I must go purely by the trailers for now and see which series has the greatest concentration of things I like. While there are a few pretty solid contenders, from where we stand, SAKUGAN has caught my attention the most. The trailer combines the energy of Gurren Lagann, expansive underground exploration of Made in Abyss, and messy single dadness of Tiger & Bunny into something almost guaranteed to be a lot of fun. The nine-year-old heroine Memempu especially drew me in, since the daughters in so many single dad anime and manga have the personality and energy of a sedated kitten, a pet to be cared for adorably rather than individuals in their own right.
Runner-up: Ranking of Kings
There’s a lot more competition for runner up. Ranking of Kings has a gorgeous children’s storybook style brought to life, and a sweet story about a Deaf prince. I’ve seen manga panels for Blue Period floating around social media, and each and every one looks beautifully drawn with plenty of insight about the artistic process. Taisho Otome Fairytale looks adorable and has a cult following, plus I’m a sucker for Taisho-era settings. And of course, the first episode of The Heike Story has already blown me away.
Most Anticipated: 86 Season 2
Normally I try to avoid sequels when making these quarterly draft picks, but I can’t lie, either to myself
or to the audience. I’m dying to see where 86 goes next. The first season came out of nowhere and blew
my cynical ass out of the water with its deft handling of tricky subject matter and its consistently
exquisite presentation. Any adaptation of a light novel that purports to tackle institutional racism has a
hell of a hill to climb to assuage my gut’s biases, and 86 managed to crest almost every peak. It’s
compelling and compassionate television, and considering the humdinger of a season finale we got, I’ve
been waiting all summer to find out where it’s going to go from there.
On the other hand, the first season’s emotional and thematic arcs were so well-crafted that I also
struggle to think how this next part can possibly follow them up, let alone top them. I’ve resisted
reading the novels, and I’ve only watched enough of the season two trailer to grab the above
screenshot, so I’m going in blind. Even if the writing and characters don’t soar as much as their
predecessors, however, I have little reason to doubt that Toshimasa Ishii‘s direction and creative vision
won’t be just as mesmerizing and heart-rending as the first go-around. Throw in some more Hiroyuki
Sawano drops for good measure, and we should be in for a good time. And by that, of course, I mean an
extremely painful time.
Runner-Up: PuraOre! Pride of Orange
Outside of poring over every new Jon Bois project, I’ve never been one to follow (or play) any of the big
team sports. Except ice hockey. My period of fascination with it was pretty limited, but thanks to my
dad, there was a time when I would have called myself a hockey fan. Even now, it’s probably the sport I
enjoy watching the most if I happen to catch a game, and I can hardly think of a better way to improve
that experience than by throwing a bunch of cute anime girls down onto center ice.
I know women’s hockey forbids body checking, so I have no delusions about seeing a bunch of thuggish,
gap-toothed, and doe-eyed enforcers slamming each other into the boards, as incredible as that would
be. Nevertheless, the hockey-focused trailer actually looked really good, with a keen sense of the sights,
sounds, and velocity of the rink. Whether Pride of Orange can sustain that level of technicality, and
whether it can integrate those qualities into an adequate sports narrative is a different story, but I’m
willing to give it a shot. The fact that their jersey colors also happen to coincide with those of the Flyers,
my team of choice (for better or worse, and usually for worse), seems like a sign from the hockey gods
that this might be a winner—or, at the very least, a loser with sufficient charm.
Most Anticipated: The Heike Story
This might come as heresy for some, but I don’t have any strong feelings about Naoko Yamada as a
director, one way or the other; K-ON was never my jam, I still haven’t gotten around to that adaptation
of A Silent Voice, and while I’ve had many close and trusted friends assure me of Sound! Euphonium‘s
genius, that franchise continues to rest comfortably in my ever-expanding anime backlog. Still, I’m not a
complete philistine, so if you tell me that she’s at the helm of a series based on a legendary work of
classic Japanese literature, one that is being animated by the brilliant artists at Science SARU, you bet
your ass that it’s going to shoot straight to the top of the list of my most anticipated anime of the fall
season. I’ll be chomping at the bit for The Heike Story even if Tommy Wiseau himself was in the director’s
seat. The fact that we’ve got an über-talented professional leading the team at Science SARU is just icing
on the cake.
Runner-up: Demon Slayer, Blade Runner: Black Lotus
Maybe, though, you’re not in the mood for a gorgeously-produced historical drama that will probably
break your heart in two a few times. It’s cool, I get it! That’s what mindless popcorn action is for, and
anime knows how to do mindless action. Most people are probably going to be clamoring for the new
season of Demon Slayer, which I also get, because for as exhausting as it has sometimes been for
Demon Slayer to inexplicably become the most popular goddamn thing on the planet lately, I’m not
going to sit here and pretend that it isn’t cool as hell.
All the same, my most anticipated exercise in spectacle this fall is probably Blade Runner: Black Lotus
because…I mean, c’mon. It’s Blade Runner. Am I glad to see that we’ll have a full-length anime spinoff
to one of my favorite film franchises? Yes. Am I anticipating a polished CGI production that will allow me
to watch a kickass looking maybe-Replicant lady do cool flips and punch people a lot? Hell yes. Am I also
going to exploit the hell out of this relevant excuse to rant at people for not appreciating Blade Runner
2049 enough? No comment (but definitely, yeah, 100%).
Most Anticipated: Blue Period
Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever been a depressed kid who discovered art to vent all those
pent-up emotions in an attempt to find meaning. Okay now put your hands back down, because I
can’t actually see you. I don’t even need to show you my hand right now to let you know that it is
both raised and that I have many memories of spending hours slaving over a hot canvas like it
was yesterday. And not just because it was in fact, yesterday. (Some of my fingers are still sore
even as I am writing this.) That’s why Blue Period, an anime about trying to get into art college,
seems laser-targeted at me. Anime about having a passion, honing your specific craft, and the
nature of art in general are always some of my favorites and get me right in my tender heart.
After all, anime is a form of art too! Everything about Blue Period seems to tightly focus in on
those themes and feelings. It’s knocking exactly on the place where I live. On top of that, I’ve
heard many good things about the manga this is based on. I’m just super excited to see it in
(drawing) action even with a three-week delay. A better-than-expected turn out for Netflix!
Runner-up: The Heike Story
Speaking of anime putting the capital-A in Art, here’s an ambitious work. The Heike
Story is a loose and florid retelling of a well-known historical epic based on the Genpei War. It’s
also the first outing by noted director Naoko Yamada in collaboration with Science SARU. I never
expected Yamada to work without Kyoto Animation‘s polished repertoire
and much less with the more free-flowing methods that studio Science SARU employs, but having
already seen the first two episodes of this supernaturally charged historical drama claiming to
span over 800 years, it’s already a match made in heaven. Every second of Heike feels
contemplative and poetic. I’ve seen a lot of anime this year, but this might be the most visually
stunning. Yamada has been well-known for her use of body language and Science SARU has
always been one of my favorite studios since its founding. If Blue Period wasn’t a perfect fit for me, this would be my #1. The other thing holding it back for me is that I get the feeling that as a retelling, it expects the audience to know
a bit about the history and the original epic. Most people aren’t keen on anime that requires extra
homework, and I worry that, among other cultural divides, this might keep The Heike Story from being
truly understandable to a wide non-Japanese audience. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of
reading to do!
#Anticipated #Anime #Fall