Winter 2021 Season Preview

If there’s any form of entertainment that seems to have reclaimed some sense of normalcy in the midst of COVID-19, it’s anime. Fall 2020 is easily the most prolific and, at least for me, the best season in months and delays now seem to be the exception rather than the norm at this point. Will 2021 continue this trend? At least for the Winter season, it looks to be the case. I counted and there’s about 50 new shows premiering next month! That’s certainly more what anime fans are used to and definitely a far cry from Spring and Summer 2020.

But what about the shows themselves? That is, as always, where things get subjective. To be frank, a lot of the new arrivals look bog standard to me, especially in the isekai, fantasy, and CGDCT genres. I’m still previewing a couple of them in this post but to be frank, I’m only marginally curious about them. I think what’s going to carry Winter 2021 for a lot of people is the sequels. Lots and lots of high profile series coming back, some of which are premiering this season after getting delayed because of the pandemic. If you happen to dislike or have not seen many of these shows, you may be out of luck. Me personally though, it just so happens that a good chunk of these shows are ones that I’ve seen and enjoyed, including one of my favorite anime of 2018. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine 2021 starting without some sort of splash.

Anyway, let’s take a pre-emptive look at some of what Winter 2021 has to offer.

Umamusume: Pretty Derby (Season 2)

Premieres: January 5 at 0:00 JSTStreaming: Crunchyroll
Studio: Studio KAISource: Video Game

Added on December 19, 2020. It’s nice to see Umamusume back in full swing. The premise is undeniably silly and the cast is far too big but it’s overall a charming experience that has its moments. Umayon was fine but a full season would’ve been better and we’re finally getting one. There appears to be a bit of a shakeup going on for Season 2. Toukai and McQueen are touted as the main characters this time around instead of Spe and Suzuka. While P.A. Works is still involved in some capacity, animation is primarily handed off to the more recent and relatively unknown Studio KAI. I’m okay with the story change, Spe and Suzuka’s arcs are more or less done, though I hope the change in studio won’t create any visible effects on the show.

Gekidol

Premieres: January 5 at 21:00 JSTStreaming: Funimation
Studio: Hoods EntertainmentSource: Original

One of a couple of idol series premiering this Winter and easily the most interesting for one simple reason: it’s also a post-disaster show. Set five years after a mysterious event in which an entire city disappears, Gekidol follows a group of girls performing as idols with the aid of holographic technology to help the populace recover from the disaster. It sounds overdramatic but it’s also not every day you hear about an idol series with that kind of setup so I can’t help but be curious. And who knows, maybe the show might actually use its premise to provide a more meaningful examination on idols.

Yuru Camp (Season 2)
(Laid-Back Camp (Season 2))

Premieres: January 7 at 11:00 JSTStreaming: Crunchyroll
Studio: C-StationSource: Manga

I’m currently in the process of redoing my episode reviews for the first season of Laid-Back Camp in preparation for Season 2. Suffice to say, this show’s return is my most anticipated anime of Winter 2021. Laid-Back Camp is one of my favorite anime of 2018 and it is simply wonderful. Camping is a perfect theme to go along with slice of life and cute girls doing cute things and the relaxing, cathartic tone is only further enhanced by the anime’s art direction and soundtrack. There’s a surprising and engaging arc to the first season’s story and even if one didn’t exist, I still love every single character (Shimarin is Best Girl). I don’t know what exactly lies ahead in Season 2 apart from new characters and locations being teased. Fundamentally, it might be more of the same but even if that’s the case, I have faith in this series and the people working on it that things won’t be getting stale anytime soon.

Yakusoku no Neverland 2nd Season
(The Promised Neverland (Season 2))

Premieres: January 8 at 1:25 JSTStreaming: Funimation, Hulu
Studio: CloverWorksSource: Manga

It came to no surprise when The Promised Neverland got renewed for a second season right as soon as the first one ended. With how popular the franchise is as a whole, it’s safe to assume we’re in for a full adaptation of the manga. I look at Season 2 as the real proving grounds for the series. Season 1 was great but spoiler alert: the plot of orphaned kids escaping their creepy home was a one and done deal. Things are going to be different from Season 2 and unless you’re a manga reader (I’m not), this is uncharted territory. Still, I’m very curious over what lies next and I won’t go around saying that the story jumped the story until proven otherwise.

Gotoubun no Hanayome ff
(The Quintessential Quintuplets ff)

Premieres: January 8 at 1:28 JSTStreaming: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Studio: Bibury Animation StudiosSource: Manga

I enjoyed the first of The Quintessential Quintuplets more than I thought I would but I did have one major complaint. It very clearly was in the early chapters of the manga, resulting in uneven focus for the titular quintuplets. Now that the anime is advancing the story for Season 2, I hope that make things feel more rounded and, in turn, more enjoyable. Something else to note is that there has been a studio change. Bibury Animation Studio is now animating the anime as opposed to Tezuka Productions. I don’t mind the change as Tezuka Productions’ work frankly got rough at times. However, the new art style is certainly going to take some getting used to it.

Kumo desu ga, Nani ka?
(So I’m a Spider, So What?)

Premieres: January 8 at 21:30 JSTStreaming: Crunchyroll
Studio: MillepenseeSource: Light Novel

I’m not the biggest fan of isekai, spiders creep me out, and Millepensee is the studio. What could possibly go wrong? That being said, the gimmick of heroine reincarnating into a spider monster is so stupid that just by default, this is the most curious isekai show this season. Whether or not the show will be good is a whole other matter.

Back Arrow

Premieres: January 9 at 0:00 JSTStreaming: Funimation
Studio: Studio VOLNSource: Original

I don’t really know much about the plot of Back Arrow other than the main character being an amnesiac and there are giant robots. What makes this show a shot in the dark for me is the fact that this is a collaboration between Code Geass director Gorou Taniguchi and Gurren Lagann writer Kazuki Nakashima. That’s quite the team-up to see so hopefully, lighting will strike with this series.

Hataraku Saibou!!
(Cells at Work!!)

Premieres: January 9 at 23:30 JSTStreaming: Funimation
Studio: David ProductionSource: Manga

Oh good, anime can guilt trip me about my health again. In all seriousness, I’m happy to see Cells at Work! return. It’s a delightfully quirky yet still educational series that also manages to provide a charming cast of characters (give the Platelets all the screen time). My only concern with Season 2 is it what kind of material it has at its disposal. There is a plenty about human biology left to cover but I’d also argue Season 1 covered all the ground you’d want to get to with the show’s premise, including cancer for Pete’s sake. I suppose time will tell how Season 2 will play out.

Hataraku Saibou Black
(Cells at Work! CODE Black)

Premieres: January 10 at 0:00 JSTStreaming: Funimation
Studio: LIDEN FILMSSource: Manga

Given Cells at Work‘s popularity, it seemed likely that at least one of its various spin-offs would receive an anime adaptation. Surprisingly, we’re not only getting that with Cells at Work! CODE Black but the show will even be airing back to back with the mainline show’s second season. Perhaps that’s a greedy move on the production committee’s part though I do find it rather cheeky and so long as both shows are good, I’m okay with this. Whereas the mainline series takes place in the body of someone who incidentally keeps getting sick, Cells at Work! Black takes place in a body with an unhealthy lifestyle to begin with (presumably due to smoking), thus resulting in a more weary cast of hard working cells.

Horimiya

Premieres: January 10 at 0:30 JSTStreaming: Funimation
Studio: CloverWorksSource: Manga

Horimiya is a romcom about a seemingly popular girl and a seemingly asocial boy who discover that they each lead double lives of some kind. The series has a somewhat odd release history. Basically, it started off as a manga called Hori-san to Miyamura-kun and then, it got rebooted under the current Horimiya name with redrawn art. There has been an anime adaptation before but from my understanding, it’s based on the original Hori-san version and it only ran for 4 episodes across a sporadic six-year schedule. This new series is based on the reboot of the same name. Since it’ll run for a season, this will presumably be a more fleshed out adaptation. Both versions of the manga have been well received, especially Horimiya. This anime also has Masashi Ishihama as the director which is a really intriguing choice if you’ve seen his past work.

Non Non Biyori Nonstop

Premieres: January 11 at 1:35 JSTStreaming: HIDIVE
Studio: SILVER LINKSource: Manga

Earlier this month, I took the time to try Non Non Biyori and it was a delightful time. It’s slice of life through and through – light on an actual story but it still draws in you with how simple and earnest it is. The characters are really funny and charming, with Renge of course being the standout, and the show can even get pretty endearing at times. I found Season 2 slightly better, if only because it puts a heavier emphasis on Renge being the best character ever, though one thing I feel mixed on is that it’s chronologically parallel to Season 1 and therefore doesn’t advance the canon. That’s somewhat of a moot point given what type of show this is but part of me really does want to see these characters grow up and how the story might evolve from there. I wouldn’t be opposed if Season 3 keeps this time loop going, because the show is still a good time regardless of that, but I do hope for a proper sequel this time around.

Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san

Premieres: February TBDStreaming: TBD
Studio: TBDSource: Manga

Maiko-san Chi no Makanai-san follows two friends, Kiyo and Sumire, who dream to becoming geisha. When Kiyo fails to earn an apprenticeship as a maiko, she decides to support Sumire and other maiko by serving as a cook in their lodge. While the manga appears to be really well-received, details on the anime is alarmingly scarce. There’s no word on cast and crew, let alone what studio is animating it. Perhaps I should wait for more information but the premise does catch my attention so here it is on the season preview.

Reviewing This Season

  1. Laid-Back Camp (Season 2)

…and that’s possibly it? I do have a second show in mind but that’s not part of this season. I did previously cover Cells at Work!, The Promised Neverland, and The Quintessential Quintuplets but I don’t know if I’ll have the time for those again and if I do, I’d like to give that time towards something new. How many shows I can cover has also been a big question mark given work and how Fall 2020 has gone. Granted, nothing’s final until the season actually starts so we’ll see.


Thanks for reading!

This post was last updated on December 31, 2020.

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