A Critique of New Anime Releases in 2021

An exploration of some of the new anime releases such as ‘Jujutsu Kaisen,’ ‘Attack on Titan,’ ‘Demon Slayer,’ ‘My Hero Academia,’ ‘Chainsaw Man,’ and more!

Two popular characters in the anime Chainsaw Man, are Denji, in his ‘demon’ form, standing next to Power, the girl with pink hair and the ability to control ones blood composition, to a certain degree.

Zhian Maysoon

Two popular characters in the anime ‘Chainsaw Man,’ are Denji, in his ‘demon’ form, standing next to Power, the girl with pink hair and the ability to control one’s blood composition, to a certain degree.

This year, despite the global Coronavirus pandemic, many people have found things to look forward to, such as new anime releases! Some recent examples are the many manga that are getting anime adaptations, and new seasons and movies being added to pre-existing anime. According to a survey that I conducted, Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack On Titan take the lead when it comes to the most anticipated anime of the year. Other popular options included My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer, and Chainsaw Man. Below are some critiques of these new anime releases for 2021, as well as some honorable mentions for lesser known anime.

Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen, created by Gege Atukami, made its animated debut at the end of last year. Its first episode came out on October 3rd, 2020 and the prequel movie was announced on March 26th, 2021. According to fandom wiki’s synopsis, “Yuji Itadori is a student who excels in using his physical gifts in school sports. Instead, he’d rather hang out with his friends in the Occult Research Club. One day he crosses paths with Megumi Fushiguro, a jujutsu sorcerer from Tokyo Jujutsu High. Megumi is searching for a special grade cursed spirit, originating from the most powerful cursed spirit in history: Ryomen Sukuna. Yuji’s friends in the Occult Research Club accidently unseal the cursed object and attract curses to their location. Together Yuji and Megumi try to fend off the curses but are backed into a corner. Yuji consumes Sukana’s finger to gain his power and manages to incarnate the curse. After saving his friends, Yuji is put on trial by the Jujutsu Higher-Ups. He becomes a student under Satoru Gojo, the Most powerful Jujutsu Sorcerer.” Of course, there is only so much that a synopsis can tell you about the show without spoiling it. 

Many people enjoy the differences in characters that you usually see in other shounen anime. These characters are not just some clouded over personalities meant to help or take down the main character. Instead, we learn more about each character’s beliefs and background with each scene. 

Arique Ahmed ’24 is a big fan. “I especially loved Jujutsu Kaisen even more than Attack on Titan. The fight scenes were so gorgeous, and it was so satisfying to see the things I saw in the manga become animated with such beauty. Itadori and his friends were amazing, and I loved how they showed the darker sides of the main characters, which really showed that they too are human. Just because they are the protagonists does not mean they abide by society’s rules. Seeing Megumi become clinically insane and Nobara give such condescending commentary to her enemies, even though they are the heroes, sent chills down my spine, which I loved. Gojo was obviously in a league of his own, and I love how Sukuna isn’t in every fight or conversation,” Ahmed said.  

Main characters Itadori Yugi, Megumi Fushigro, Nobara Kugisaki, along with their sensei Gojo Satoru are standing in front while a special grade curse who has control over ‘the shape of a human’s soul’ is in the background. (Zhian Maysoon)

Jujutsu Kaisen provides a refreshing change from your typical characters, so much so that the women of the anime are not reduced to mere love interests, as is typical of the genre. Each and every one of them have their own strengths and they are not reduced to cowering and helplessly calling for help in battle as in some other animes. Naturally, they are not invincible, but neither are the other characters. 

Every character has their own strengths, weaknesses, and flaws that shows us that they are human. When asked about Jujutsu Kaisen, Chanel Richardson’22 said, “I think it’s the perfect ‘beginner anime.’ It has a beautiful balance between action and slice of life. We get to see the characters interact with each other and build their own relationships. On top of that, the main women in the show have their own driving forces and power, which is not something we usually see. Not to mention the animation is insanely detailed, and the fight scenes hit it out of the ballpark every time. I truly would recommend Jujutsu Kaisen to everyone, from the most seasoned anime watchers to people who are just getting into it. I believe it’s one of those shows where there’s something for everyone and it always exceeds expectations.” 

Some fans, who had already read the manga, are looking forward to MAPPA’s (the studio in charge of the anime adaptation) animation of the ‘Shibuya incident’ arc. Some even think that Jujutsu Kaisen will become one of the next big three of the new generation of anime.

Jujutsu Kaisen is the top Shonen for years to come. The animation done by Mappa is amazing and really pushes the boundaries of Shonen with lovable characters, a great world to explore, and a super interesting power system. It has only scratched the surface of its potential, and I have no doubt that people will still be talking about this show in years to come,” said Cameron Nejat ’21. The Shibuya arc had been beautifully crafted to really break and make the characters. But I will not be speaking about that arc as I would not want to spoil such an amazing and highly recommended show.

In ‘Attack on Titan,’ pictured are the main characters Eren Yeager in front, with Mikasa to the right, and Armin behind Mikasa, on the right. Captain Levi is directly behind Eren, holding a sword. (Zhian Maysoon)

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan was created by Hajime Isayama and first aired in April of 2013. Recently Season 4, part 1, has been released, causing fans everywhere to scream in excitement. Fandom Wiki writes “The story begins as we venture into the Walls of humanity and meet our main protagonists, Eren, Mikasa and Armin. However, a mysterious threat known as the Titans causes a daily threat and our heroes soon learn of their terror as the Colossus Titan breaks through the gate.”

Personally, I am waiting for the anime to end before I begin watching, but several of my friends have watched it and are completely in love. Minhaj Alok’22, when asked what part of Attack on Titan was his favorite, replied ,“The plot. The plot. The plot. Every single detail is amazing. Each and every detail is connected and intertwines in such a way that is mind-blowing. I just love it.”

Similarly, Chanel Richardson’22 said, “Attack on Titan is truly a masterpiece, from the show’s intricacies to its detailed animation.  It’s so good that I had to start reading the manga while waiting for the rest of the final season. I love the action, and find each character to be written extremely well.” Both Alok and Richardson, alongside many others, really enjoyed the little twists and turns that they got because of how wonderfully all the story elements came together. For those of you who prefer to read the manga, it has been recently announced that the Attack on Titan Manga has finished, so please do go and give it a read if it seems like it will appeal to you.

In ‘My Hero Academia,’ protagonist Izuku ‘Deku’ Midoriya is in the middle while he is surrounded by Shoto Todoroki (red and white hair), Katsuki Bakugou (Blond and yelling next to Todoroki), All Might (standing behind Deku with his arms crossed), Tenya Iida (under Bakugou), Hitoshi Shinsou (under Iida), Fumikage Tokoyami (under Shinsou), Ochako Uraraka (under Tokoyami), Shota Aizawa (Under Todoroki), Mei Hatsume (under Aizawa), Enji ‘Endeavor’ Todoroki (under Hatsume), and Hizashi ‘Present Mic’ Yamada. (Zhian Maysoon)

My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia, created by Kohei Horikoshi, first aired in Japan back in April of 2016, and quickly rose  in popularity amongst teens everywhere. Fandom Wiki’s Synopsis writes “Boku no Hero Academia is a world where most people have developed powers called Quirks. In this world with superhumans around every corner, the age of heroes has come as they have become a necessity to aid in the defeat of villains.”

The story focuses on “Deku” Izuku Midoriya, a powerless, quirkless boy. In this world filled with heroes he so greatly admires, he aspires to be like the greatest of them all, All-Might, the symbol of peace. Due to twists of fate, Deku inherits All-Might’s quirk and enrolls in the UA Hero Course in hopes of becoming the next ‘Symbol of Peace’ like All-Might. However, with All-Mights powers fading and powerful new villains constantly surfacing, the times have begun to change and which will bring unprecedented trials to Deku, his classmates and even society as a whole. 

The anime has a wonderful range of characters with various different personalities and types. The anime and manga deal with many different themes, and even address themes like domestic abuse, discrimination, a society of bystanders/the bystander effect, as well as government corruption. One example of the many themes is with character Shoto Todoroki, the son of the #2 hero, Endeavor.

Endeavor has a fire based Quirk, but because of his body’s limit, it is not as powerful as he would like. Because of this, he marries Shoto’s mother Rei, who has an ice based quirk. Because Shoto inherited a better version of Endeavor’s fire quirk and the ice quirk of his mother, Shoto was forced to go through ‘quirk training’ from the young age of 5, where he would be subject to long, grueling sessions of fighting and training with his powers. Shoto and Rei weren’t the only ones who suffered due to his obsession, but I will let you find that out on your own. 

Naturally, not everything in the MHA universe is super serious. There are beautiful light hearted scenes that put a smile on your face because of the antics that some of the characters are up to. For example, the School Festival arc features class 1A trying to put on a show with music that they played themselves along with dancing, in their attempt to bring joy to the various other non-hero classes of UA. 

Some current fans of MHA are looking forward to the latest season that is currently being released (season 5). According to Nurul Azam ’24, “This [current] season is starting off slow, but with what’s to come with the My Villan academia arc, I’m looking forward to it.” 

While many students enjoy the series, some do not. Emily Li ’22 believes that “the series doesn’t promote a good message, because all the ‘hero course kids’ think in a blockheaded way that is completely black and white thinking, with a complete trust in the government. In addition, Deku’s abilities don’t scale realistically. He doesn’t work to achieve his goal, an example being when he throws a backpack at a villain, but gets powers from the number one hero. There are a number of heroes wandering around who are capable of defeating the villain, but because of plot armor, it had to be Deku. I have nothing against superhero shows, but please make them more realistic and logical.”  

Although some people may feel that aspects of the show are illogical, others, like Trisha Majumdar ’22 really enjoy some of the real-life concepts that they find. Majumdar said, “I noticed that Horikoshi placed a lot of care within the character designs, especially the best character, Denki Kaminari. Denki Kaminari is seen to use the right hand rule for electromagnetism whenever using his quirk (which I found to be pretty cool as I was learning that during Physics class).” 

Majumdar also comments that she “particularly enjoys this show because of the foundation and connection that the MHA universe holds with reality.” She further elaborates on this point by noting that the care that Horikoshi placed into world building for this anime is astounding because of all the important topics being broached here without the reader or viewer even realizing it. 

In the anime ‘Demon Slayer,’ Tanjiro, backed by his friends Inosuke, Zenistsu, and Rengoku and his sister Nezuko, head into the Mugen train, hunting the demon that killed Tanjiro’s family. (Zhian Maysoon)

Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer has been trending worldwide for months after the Demon Slayer: Mugen Train Movie was released in April 2021 in the United States. 

Demon Slayer is about Tanjiro Kamado’s quest to find the demon that killed his family and turned his sister Nezuko into a demon. Luckily, even though Nezuko turned into a demon, she was able to somehow retain her human emotions, allowing her to show restraint and resist the demonic pull towards evil. Because he carries his sister with him, who is now a demon, he faces many challenges, such as convincing the demon corps to let her live. 

The plot itself is not seen as something super spectacular, but the breath-taking animation alongside the lovable characters builds the strong foundation that the franchise stands on. This anime is popular with many age groups, which led to it becoming ‘overrated’ for many. 

Emily Li ’21 said that Demon Slayer is “overrated. Simply that,” and Awais Abid ’22 agreed that, “Demon Slayer the anime just looks good, but in my opinion, it is overrated.” And although it may have become overrated, many still look forward to the future of the franchise as well as watching characters like Tanjirou, Nezuko, Zenitsu, and Inosuke develop. 

Minhaj Alok’22 enjoyed it, noting that “Demon Slayer gave much character development to all of its characters, whether it is with the humans or the demons – also I loved the art. I read entire manga and am anticipating everything that will be animated.” What he brings up is actually quite important as many franchises do not humanize villains as well as Demon Slayer does. With each and every ‘demon’ that Tanjirou meets, we learn and understand that many of them may have become a demon in order to escape their sorrow filled lives.

Chainsaw Man

Chainsaw Man, a manga written by Tatsuki Fujimoto, is set to be adapted into an anime premiering November of 2021. Recently rising in popularity, Chainsaw Man has started to become as well known as Attack on Titan; some even think that it is going to become one of the next big anime along with Jujutsu Kaisen

“The anime I’m really excited to see the most is Chainsaw Man. From what I have heard about the story and MAPPA, the new best animator behind it, I cannot wait for this show to come out and take over the fall season,” said Cameron Nejat ’21. 

Even though the anime is yet to debut, many manga readers are quite invested in the anime series already. Elijah Davis ’22 said that Chainsaw Man is “one of the best mangas I’ve ever read, personally. The characters are so enjoyable to read and the plot just tugs at your emotions.” 

Many are in love with the dynamic of ‘breaking the characters’ that we see in this anime/manga. Jay Tang’22 said, “Chainsaw Man is a refreshing manga, quite similar to Jujutsu Kaisen. But Chainsaw Man makes up for Jujutsu Kaisen‘s biggest fault – its need to use words to express the main character’s emotions. It still has the same shortcomings. however, such as a lot of the characters being unmemorable. My defining point about whether an anime can be considered good would be whether the main character is really pushed to the limits of their usually optimistic behavior before finally righting their wrongs. Chainsaw Man does this really well. It’s amazing.”

Honorable Mentions: Horimiya & Yasuke 

In the anime ‘Horimiya,’ Kyoko Hori sits next to Izumi Miyamura while holding a small present during the Christmas’ and New Years’ season. (Zhian Maysoon)

Horimiya

Horimiya is a romance anime that takes place between the characters Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura. Hori is known as the smart popular girl, but outside of school, she does not have time to hang out with friends as she needs to take care of her brother, do the housework, as well as her own homework.

Miyamura is a quiet loner at school, with no friends and no one to talk to, but outside of school, he seems to be a whole different person with piercings and style. Hori and Miyamura become unexpected friends when Souta (Hori’s little brother) gets hurt and is escorted home by his new fabulous friend, Miyamura. 

The anime does not just focus on the main romance between Hori and Miyamura, but also on the friendship of Hori and (later) Miyamura. This wonderful romance anime is definitely worth watching (and worth even more reading for all the extra, cute little scenes that the anime could not include).

Yasuke, the Black samurai of the eponymous anime, is standing next to Saki, who is harnessing her newfound power. (Zhian Maysoon)

Yasuke

Yasuke is not a very well known anime, yet it has captured the hearts of many. While I cannot personally tell you about this anime, others like Aissata Barry’22 can. Barry said that “I really enjoyed Yasuke, there’s a huge lack of representation of Black characters in anime, so it was great to watch an anime centered on a Black samurai. What I loved most about the anime was that it combined traditional fight scenes with mythical elements, and a lot of characters had ‘powers,’ so the fight scenes were very interesting. I thought the ending was very satisfying, and there was no cliffhanger. Personally, I didn’t like the voice of the main characters, so I switched to the Japanese dub, and it made the experience much better. I also thought there were some clichéd moments, but I think it’s impossible to make a show without any at all. The season was very short (6 episodes, at 30 minutes each) so it was a nice binge watch, but I wish that the producers had explored the origins of the main characters, particularly the main villain. It would have been interesting to see where the powers came from. Why did some people get powers and others did not? Hopefully, they will cover this in season 2!”

“I think that Jujutsu Kaisen the perfect ‘beginner anime.’ It has a beautiful balance between action and slice of life. We get to see the characters interact with each other and build their own relationships. On top of that, the main women in the show have their own driving forces and power, which is not something we usually see. Not to mention the animation is insanely detailed, and the fight scenes hit it out of the ballpark every time. I truly would recommend Jujutsu Kaisen to everyone, from the most seasoned anime watchers to people who are just getting into it. I believe it’s one of those shows where there’s something for everyone and it always exceeds expectations,” said Chanel Richardson ’22.

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