A few days ago I wrote up a thread on anime criticism I enjoyed reading/watching in 2021. I didn’t want it to be lost to the winds of time, so I decided to make a copy here! Feel free to scroll down and check out whatever seems most interesting to you.
Frog-kun wrote a ton of great stuff this year, but I especially enjoyed this piece on Mushoku Tensei and the history of “narou” fiction.
All of Emily Rand’s work is good, but I’m a big Evangelion fan so of course I loved this piece on Evangelion 3.0+1.0. Love is about timing.
Dawn H. wrote a fantastic tribute to BECK and Paradise Kiss director Osamu Kobayashi, who passed away this year. Apparently he was the art director for Grandia?? May he rest in peace.
Peter Fobian wrote about Berserk, a legendary (if messy) series that gets at something true about trauma, masculinity and healing.
Over on Anime Herald, this was a great piece by Kennedy about the long and winding publication history of OEL manga/webcomic Devil’s Candy.
The last half of Wonder Egg Priority was all over the place, but Steve Jones’s weekly writeups were a guiding light for me. Each week, my friends and I would ask each other, “did you read Steve’s most recent review?” His writing on Sonny Boy is very good too, especially since that series actually goes somewhere at the end.
Natasha wrote about Odd Taxi. When is she going to write about Final Fantasy XIV, the critically acclaimed game that no longer has a free trial you can play until level 60 and includes the award-winning expansion Heavensward? Your guess is as good as mine.
Alex wrote about Wonder Egg Priority and the difference respect makes between “fiction written about children” and “fiction written for children”.
Jon Holt and Teppei Fukuda translated this essential piece on manga artist Taiyo Matsumoto written by Natsume Fusanosuke.
crakthesky posted their yearly roundup of favorite AMVs, this time for 2021. Past years turned me onto many great editors like TRUTH CRAB and HazelNeverTalks, so I’d recommend checking out all 50 videos chosen here. You’ll never know what you might find!
Finally, Austin Price wrote the last word on part 1 of Chainsaw Man: “I Like Crap.”
I really liked this interview Frog-kun did with the author of webfiction/light novel series The Faraway Paladin. Their other interviews are worth reading as well; they’re easily one of the best in this space.
Cayla Coats has been interviewing vtubers over at Crunchyroll News through the feature “So You Want to Be an Anime Girl?” My favorite one so far is with Projekt Melody, which goes to some profound and personal places!
Meanwhile, over at Anime News Network, Blou appeared once more (along with their collaborator FAR) to speak with Frog-kun about their experience working on Wonder Egg Priority. These folks get around!
The Sakuga Corner
Lots of good writing on Sakugablog this year. One piece I especially enjoyed reading was this piece by alex_swak on the career of director Tomomi Mochizuki, who’s worked on everything from fan-favorite tearjerker Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to That Day to Ghibli TV film Ocean Waves (and Pupa.)
kViN was productive as usual. His latest and best attempt at threading the needle between all the different ways the anime industry is fucked attacks the question of “scheduling,” and whether even basic statements like “having an ample schedule is a good thing!” are more complex now than they might appear. He also wrote this great piece about some of the talented folks (both young and old) working on the hilarious and bizarre new season of Precure.
purplegeth wrote about Deho Gallery and its essential contributions to Evangelion 3.0+1.0 at artist.unknown. Apparently they worked on Naoko Yamada’s recent Heike Story as well!
Also on artist.unknown, what the heck is happening at SHAFT? Is anyone left? shootingonfours gets into it.
One of the most ambitious features of the year was Animetudes’s History of the Kanada School. There’s plenty to read, so go take a look: everything from the production of the classic Urusei Yatsura to popular Kanada-style directors like Hiroyuki Imaishi are represented.
On the Canipa Effect, Callum May delves into the complicated history of popular studio MAPPA: its successes, its failures, and how it may represent the future of the anime industry for better or worse. Definitely worth showing to folks looking to learn more about the studio (and anime production as a whole.)
Lots of great pieces were written about Wonder Egg Priority this year, but this video by Cayla Coats is in my top five or so. Check it out! Spoilers for the whole series, of course.
hazel’s one of my recent favorites on YouTube at putting together big weird features about anime and manga. She’s built a strong catalog of work already, but I especially appreciated this two-hour video on 2000s pop culture artifact Elfen Lied. As a bonus: this isn’t anime related, but I adored this short video she put together about every video game appearance of the Flatwoods Monster.
In this house we respect Monopoly Mermaid Mondays.
Finally, here’s a heartfelt video by Emily about the different anime adaptations of Berserk! It’s more of a “writer reads a script at the screen over images and music” kind of video than some of the other entries here, but it delves into the workings of Berserk and the video creator’s own experiences in an effective way.
Anime Lockdown 2021
Last year saw the second iteration of Anime Lockdown, an online convention managed by a tiny team of experienced and well-connected folks. The panels here are on par with the best I’ve seen at Otakon at past years, and much of it is available to watch on Youtube. I’d recommend checking out whatever appears interesting to you, it’s nearly all good to excellent!