There’s a lot new in streaming this week, including an MCU film, a First Nations film, a stop-motion mind-trip, and the bulk of the winter season’s new anime. You’ll also start to find some awards contenders arriving on streaming platforms, such as “Bergman Island” coming to Hulu (in the mix for screenplay and acting nominations). The larger awards contenders won’t come out until later in the year, and in some cases won’t be realistically available until right before or after the Oscars. Films that people can’t realistically see until February or March 2022 being the best film of 2021 is…another conversation.
I do want to talk about that influx of anime: why does it tend to happen in such sudden bursts? Anime tends to drop seasonally, with most premieres grouped into brief two-week windows about once every three months. This means quick bursts of premieres before another few months of relative silence. I try to feature animation from all countries, but no other country has the scale of saturation in the U.S. that Japan manages. Obviously, other English-speaking countries like the U.K. and Canada do well. As for others, France is an extremely consistent animation powerhouse, and we do see tons more work from South Korea and India than we imagine, since a lot of “U.S. productions” are mostly animated there. Yet in terms of original content, streaming platforms tend to only pick up a few things from Poland, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, India, South Korea, Russia, China, and other countries that do have significant animation industries.
Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and the like don’t put the investment into bringing that animation over that they do into anime – and that’s even before getting to dedicated anime platforms like Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Hidive that bring the bulk of new titles over and maintain interest and infrastructure. Even before this, Japan’s investment into anime is staggering. Despite being the 11th most populous country, it regularly produces the most animated films and the second-most animated series (after the U.S.) in the world. And again, a lot of what counts as “U.S. productions” are animated in other countries, but I can probably only keep you through so many tangents.
Let’s get to it:
The House (Netflix)
“The House” is a stop-motion, gothic anthology series about characters in three different eras who each become tied to a house. Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Goth, Matthew Goode, and Miranda Richardson lend their voices.
Emma De Swaef directs an episode with Marc James Roels, and then Paloma Baeza and Niki Lindroth von Bahr each direct one.
You can watch “The House” on Netflix.
Naomi (The CW)
showrunner Jill Blankenship
Based on the DC comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and illustrated by Jamal Campbell, “Naomi” follows a fan of the real Superman who investigates a supernatural event and begins to realize her own powers.
The series is produced by Ava DuVernay, and Jill Blankenship is showrunner. Blankenship has written and produced on “The Last Ship” and “Arrow”.
You can watch “Naomi” on The CW. New episodes arrive on Tuesdays.
Archive 81 (Netflix)
showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine
An archivist is hired to restore a collection of old, damaged videotapes. What he finds on them is the work of a filmmaker who was investigating a cult.
Showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine has written and produced on “The Boys” and “The Vampire Diaries”.
Four of the episodes are directed by Rebecca Thomas, director of “Limetown”, “Stranger Things”, and the upcoming live-action “The Little Mermaid” adaptation. Another two are directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour, who helmed “Wadjda” and “Mary Shelley”.
You can watch “Archive 81” on Netflix. All eight episodes are available at once.
Akebi’s Sailor Uniform (Crunchyroll, Funimation)
directed by Kuroki Miyuki
A girl from the country gets into an elite private school. The show takes its name from how excited she is just to put on the school uniform. This seems like it could be a wholesome, slice-of-life anime.
Director Kuroki Miyuki has previously directed on “The Idolmaster Side M” and assisted directed on the “Fate/Grand Order” franchise.
You can watch “Akebi’s Sailor Uniform” on Crunchyroll or Funimation. New episodes arrive Saturdays.
Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout (Crunchyroll)
directed by Yamai Sayaka
I mean, some of the titles save me a lot of descriptive work. Two men are transported to a fantasy world by a goddess. One of them is transformed into a woman (after he indirectly wishes for this), and now the two have to navigate both this world and their newfound sexual tension.
There are a lot of ways this could go wrong, and anime has about as bad a history on trans rights and gender dysphoria as U.S. media does, but I will say Anime Feminist gave this a strong early review and they tend to have a progressive stance on these issues as a critical site.
This is the first series directed by Yamai Sayaka.
You can watch “Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout” on Crunchyroll. New episodes arrive on Tuesdays.
showrunner Liz Astrof
Eliza Coupe, Maggie Q, and Ginnifer Goodwin play friends who react to the death of their friend Colleen by upending their lives and pursuing new directions.
Showrunner Liz Astrof has produced on “2 Broke Girls” and “Whitney”.
You can watch “Pivoting” on Fox. New episodes arrive on Thursdays.
Saiyuki Reload Zeroin (Hidive)
directed by Takada Misato
Adventurers band together in order to stop the resurrection of a powerful, evil being. No English-translated trailer is available, but there will be translation for the series.
This is the first series directed by Takada Misato.
You can watch “Saiyuki Reload Zeroin” on Hidive. New episodes arrive on Thursdays.
Futsal Boys!!!!! (Funimation)
directed by Hiiro Yukina
Futsal is a 5-on-5 game of soccer played on a hard court that’s smaller than a football pitch. “Futsal Boys!!!!!” is a slice-of-life anime that follows young men playing the game. No English-translated trailer is available, but there will be translation for the series.
Director Hiiro Yukina has previously helmed “Hitorijime My Hero” and “100 Sleeping Princes & the Kingdom of Dreams”.
You can watch “Futsal Boys!!!!!” on Funimation. New episodes arrive on Sundays.
directed by Chloe Zhao
Chloe Zhao follows up her Best Directing and Best Picture Oscar wins for “Nomadland” (as well as screenplay and editing nominations) with a Marvel film that follows a race of immortal beings who’ve thus far stayed out of humanity’s affairs.
Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Richard Madden, and Kit Harington star.
You can watch “Eternals” on Disney+.
Bergman Island (Hulu)
directed by Mia Hansen-Love
A wife and husband travel to an island that inspired legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman to write. As they stay there, reality and fiction start to blur together.
Mia Hansen-Love quickly left acting in favor of writing and directing. She’s had success as a French filmmaker that includes a Cannes win and a Cesar nomination.
You can watch “Bergman Island” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.
Edge of the Knife (Shudder, AMC+)
co-directed by Helen Haig-Brown
This First Nations drama is the first feature film in the Haida language, spoken on a series of islands off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. “Edge of the Knife”, or “Sgaawaay K’uuna”, tells the story of a man who’s traumatized after accidentally causing the death of his best friend’s son. Wracked with grief, he escapes into the forest and transforms into a Gaagiixiid, or a wildman.
Helen Haig-Brown directs with Gwaai Edenshaw. Haig-Brown is a Tsilhquot’in filmmaker. This is her first feature film.
You can watch “Edge of the Knife” on Shudder, on AMC+, or see where to rent it.
I’m Your Man (Hulu)
directed by Maria Schrader
We’re a few decades into men romancing android women, but women being romanced by android men hasn’t gotten the same amount of cinematic attention. In “I’m Your Man”, a scientist makes an agreement to obtain funding for her own research. She agrees to live for three weeks with a robot who’s designed to make her happy.
Co-writer and director Maria Schrader won an Emmy for her directing on “Unorthodox”, and is a well-known German actress.
You can watch “I’m Your Man” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.
Sex Appeal (Hulu)
directed by Talia Osteen
A teenager who’s a perfectionist at heart needs help from her best friend to collect data for her sexual research app.
This is the first feature directed by Talia Osteen, who’s composed the music for “Imposters” and “Coffee Town”.
You can watch “Sex Appeal” on Hulu.
directed by Monika Mitchell
Alyssa Milano stars as Grace, who investigates the murder of her sister, a webcam model. “Brazen” is an adaptation of the Nora Roberts novel “Brazen Virtue”.
Director Monika Mitchell has directed a number of TV and Christmas movies.
You can watch “Brazen” on Netflix.
Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (Amazon)
co-directed by Jennifer Kluska
Monsters are transformed to humans and humans into monsters in the latest entry of the “Hotel Transylvania” animated franchise.
Jennifer Kluska directs with Derek Drymon. This is Kluska’s first feature as director. She’s been a storyboard artist on “Bee Movie” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”.
You can watch “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania” on Amazon.
The Legend of La Llorona (VOD)
directed by Patricia Harris Seeley
A couple vacationing in Mexico find that their son’s disappearance is tied to something supernatural.
This is the first feature by director Patricia Harris Seeley.
See where to rent “The Legend of La Llorona”.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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