The new year has started out strong with some incredible premieres that nobody was expecting.
Which shows do you review?
We don’t review shows that are direct sequels, shorts, or for young children. Anything not licensed and/or immediately available is off the table as well, though we do our best to offer premiere reviews for “Netflix jail” shows once they become legally available. That left the team with a whopping 28 titles, almost all released over the past nine days.
While shows may change category as they continue to air, for ease of reference this is the order that will be used when discussing shows on our midseason and wrap-up podcasts.
How do you write the reviews?
While Alex took some time off this season for their thesis, Mercedez, Lizzie, Vrai, Dee, and Chiaki tackled the season together. The titles were divided evenly and by the reviewer’s choice. Caitlin pitched in on the Anime News Network Preview Guide this season, so you can see her take on the new shows over there.
Once we have more funding, we’d like to change our current model to provide a wider range of perspectives on more episodes. We’re a long way from that goal, but it’s been a personal wish of ours since launch and we hope to make it happen someday.
What do your reviews focus on?
This varies by writer to some extent (some of us are more focused on visuals, others on narrative, and so forth), but as a feminist site it’s of course essential that we raise any issues of feminist interest.
When you read an AniFem review, you’re likely to learn about female character designs, queer representation, analogies to real-world marginalization, and so on. If you think we missed something, please comment under the review and let us know!
Why do you categorize them?
The purpose of these reviews is to give you, our readers, information to help you decide if you want to try a show. There’s greater access to anime than ever before, and we want to help you find series you can truly love, without wasting your time on a show that contains an automatic deal-breaker, be that fanservice, homophobia, the sexualization of children, and so on.
Individuals can find value in any series, and we will never lead a boycott of a particular show, but we want to make it easier for you to get the most out of your limited time. In our digest, feminist-relevant themes and ideas take precedence, with overall narrative quality coming second and personal preference a distant(ish) third.
Premieres that seem to contain progressive themes are at the highest end and those featuring regressive ideas (or out-and-out hatefulness) are at the lowest. We expect some disagreement and welcome debate, so if you have any objections to our lists then by all means let us know in the comments!
I found a show I’m interested in! Where can I watch it?
This will vary depending on where you live, but you can browse Yatta-Tachi’s Winter 2021 Premiere Chart for the legal streaming sites carrying each series. Check to see if a show is available in your region!
Winter 2021 Premiere Digest
The following titles are organized by categories, then alphabetically. Note that, because of the way premiere dates are staggered, we’ve had the chance to watch multiple episodes of some series. To give you a fuller picture of how much information we were working with when creating these rankings, we’ve marked how many episodes of each show we’ve seen.
Premieres that so far seem to be addressing progressive ideas or themes without also having any significant caveats we need to tell readers about.
- 2.43 Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team (Episodes 1-2): Grounded young adult character drama with a healthy dose of queer subtext; willing to address difficult subjects like over-competitiveness and suicide.
- Otherside Picnic (Episodes 1-2): Gripping sci-fi yuri series starring adult characters.
- WONDER EGG PRIORITY (Episode 1): An artfully staged lady-led fantasy/suspense series that tackles heavy topics like bullying, suicide, and grief with visceral honesty but also sympathy and care.
Similar to the above category, but in addition to all those possible feminist themes, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
- Cells at Work! CODE BLACK (Episodes 1-2): Strong anti-capitalist undercurrents about the deadly effects of overwork culture; fanservice (with sexualized violence upcoming in the manga).
- Heaven’s Design Team (Episodes 1-2): A charming edutainment workplace comedy with a gender-balanced and gender-diverse cast, but the decision to cast a cis man to play a canonically trans woman leads to some queer stereotyping and meta-narrative trans erasure.
- Kemono Jihen (Episode 1): A story based on Japanese folklore about a young boy who is an outcast and befriends a mysterious detective who knows a lot about the demon world. While it has a heartwarming chosen family theme, there is also extreme gore and violence against children.
- VLADLOVE (Episode 1): Normalized queer romance between a vampire and a human, also featuring abuse-as-slapstick and fanservice.
Very little to warn folks about, but also not a ton of progressive ideas to chew on so far either.
- BACK ARROW (Episode 1): Goofy fantasy robot fighting show; several competent female characters (one in a fanservicey outfit), but they don’t get much to do yet.
- Ex-Arm (Episode 1): A young man dies in 2014 and reawakens in 2030 as a brain in a titanium case. He downloads himself into a female-coded android body to save the day. A visual exercise testing the limits of avant-garde art primarily influenced by PS1-era video games.
- Gekidol (Episode 1): A subpar show about a young girl who wants to become an idol to give hope to humanity after the world was devastated by a strange phenomenon.
- Hortensia SAGA (Episodes 1-2): Gender-balanced epic fantasy co-starring a crossdressing warrior princess.
- I★CHU (Episode 1): Too many boys, all of whom want to become gimmicky idols; it’s not bad, but it’s also not good.
- IDOLY PRIDE (Episode 1): A middle-of-the-road idol show that’s yet to find its footing, especially after its first episode plot twist.
- Scar on the Praeter (Episode 1): Another show with too many boys except they are fighting in turf wars and trying to protect the people living on the rough side of Tokyo Akatsuki Special Ward.
- Skate-Leading Stars (Episodes 1-2): Team skating show with an all-male cast and stylish choreography sequences.
- WIXOSS DiVA(A)LIVE (Episode 1): A show that combines idols, card games, and magical girl motifs into a confusing 22-minute watch that never explains anything and leaves viewers more confused than anything else.
Premieres that weren’t actively hateful, but still raised some noteworthy caveats or concerns.
- Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki (Episode 1): Rom-com between an optimist and a pessimist gamer. Tomozaki’s likability is highly dependent on how much of his misanthropy you’re willing to put up with in order to see him hopefully grow into a better version of himself.
- Dr Ramune: Mysterious Disease Specialist (Episode 1): An eccentric doctor and his trusty high-school sidekick treat the mysterious illnesses of his patients with questionable methods. While the premiere was fine, it gave strong hints that the show will eventually have silly semi-obscene sexual humor.
- Horimiya (Episode 1): A teenage rom-com with a focus on how people have multifaceted personalities; the first minute features a perverted teacher; Hori also exhibits a physically abusive streak for comedy.
- LBX Girls (Episode 1): Toy commercial about girls wearing skimpy military hardware; mild fanservice.
- Sk8 the Infinity (Episode 1): A too-cool-for-school, fantastically animated skateboard racing anime that is a ton of fun to watch except for the 60-odd seconds where it’s objectifying or threatening women.
- So I’m a Spider, So What? (Episode 1): A charming show about a high school girl turned fantasy spider in another world; the human characters make brief references to siscons, lolicons, and mock a male classmate for being reborn AFAB.
- Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies moved to a starter town? (Episodes 1-2): Fantasy comedy about a sweet, cluelessly overpowered boy; mild/brief fanservice; nearly every girl falls for the lead.
- WAVE!! Let’s go surfing (Episode 1): A laid-back surfing anime with too many boys competing against each other that would normally be harmless fun, but its slight exotification of the only Brown character in the series is worrisome.
A whole lotta yikes.
- The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter (Episode 1): A fanservice-heavy fantasy series where a milquetoast lead has women falling over themselves to be with him. One of them is his sister. The best woman on the cast is also a comatose lady chained in a dungeon who communicates telepathically.
Pit of shame
These shows need to go to their room and think about what they’ve done.
- Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Episode 1): The story of a former pedophile sex criminal reborn as a horny baby who continues to creep on women as a toddler, but now he has magical powers.
- Redo of Healer (Episodes 1-2): A dark fantasy series about an abuse survivor that seems more interested in censored assault scenes and vindictive revenge than in sincerely engaging with its protagonist’s trauma; episode 2 includes extended scenes of graphic sexual violence and torture enacted both on and by the protagonist.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited after publication to re-categorize Redo of Healer in light of its second episode