Let’s end this year of anime on a positive note with our list of Best Anime of 2021. Which shows rose through the crowd and stood head and shoulders above the competition? Let’s find out!
Before starting the list, let us first discuss the criteria that these anime were selected with. For one, the anime should have started and ended in the year 2021. If the anime started in 2020 or continued on past 2021, it wasn’t included in the list. Sorry, Attack On Titan and Ousama Ranking fans, I am one of you, but they don’t belong on the list just yet. There is a lot of personal bias that seeps here from time to time, but that’s how lists go. Let’s now take a look at the best anime 2021 featured!
#15- Shiguang Daili Ren
Studio LAN, Supernatural/Drama, 11 Episodes
Starting this list with the only Chinese anime we’ll talk about, number 15 is the lovely Link Click or Shiguang Dailiren. It surprised scores of people with its depth, novel concept and fantastic animation when it first came along in the middle of the year and established itself as a solid showcase of what anime from the other side of the ocean can be like. The only reason it didn’t rank higher on this list is because of its short length and somewhat inconclusive ending, but I still implore you to check this delightful little title out.
#14- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2
Kyoto Animation, Comedy/Fantasy/Slice of Life, 12 Episodes
This was Kyoto Animation’s first full-length anime project since the devastating and deadly arson attack that it suffered, and the studio didn’t hold back any punches. The second season of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was just as cute, funny, and full of heart as the original, with the added benefit of some truly tremendous animation by one of the best anime studios going right now. It wasn’t a perfect season, with the pacing and a few characters, namely Ilulu being not very well-realised, but it was still the fantastic show we’ve all grown to love. Click here to read our full review of the series!
#13- Tokyo Revengers
LIDENFILMS, Action/Drama/Supernatural, 24 Episodes
Shounen anime has seen a bit of a comeback in these past years. While it hasn’t ever gone away from our screens and has always maintained a steady presence throughout anime’s existence, the glory days of the Big Three and classics such as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood have long passed. However, with huge titles in the past couple of years, such as Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and our entry, Tokyo Revengers, the genre is staging a big and successful comeback to its roots.
Tokyo Revengers has everything one would want in a good shounen anime- there is tons of hard-hitting action, a sense of mystery, and a decent plot. While it suffers from some issues like weird pacing and somewhat unrealised potential of its concept hinder it from being associated with the titans of its genre, the characters and animation are good enough to make it a fun watch all the same.
#12- My Hero Academia Season 5
Bones, Action/Comedy, 25 Episodes
Perhaps the biggest casualty on this list of the pandemic we’ve suffered for the past two years is this right here. I’ll preface this entry by saying that I am a huge fan of this series as a whole, and I believe that My Hero Academia is everything that is good about the entire demographic of Shonen anime. I can also admit that this season of the show was its weakest so far, but the weakest season of My Hero Academia is still better than most other anime that aired this year.
Read More- The 10 Worst Anime of 2021, Ranked!
We saw three arcs animated this time around- 1A vs 1B, Endeavour Training, and My Villain Academia. While the show suffered from horrendous pacing issues for most of its runtime, the content inside was still fantastic. The animation was awesome in the first half and acceptable during the second, apparently due to COVID, which can’t really be helped. Overall, this was another solid season for the series, which has become somewhat of a common kicking target for anime fans right now. I don’t care, and I’ll keep watching and liking it all the same. Click here to read the full review of this season!
#11- Mieruko Chan
Studio Passione, Comedy/Horror/Supernatural, 12 Episodes
Mieruko Chan is an anime that never should have worked, but it somehow worked as well as it ever could. The horror and comedy elements work very well, and the show is delightfully subtle about every aspect of its storytelling. There are some twists that no one will ever see coming, alongside a very well done arc that fits perfectly with the story it decided to tell us. There are a few too many lewd scenes, and the anime drags sometimes, but the positives far outweigh the negatives here. Click here to read our full review of the show!
A-1 Pictures, Action/Drama/Sci-fi, 11 Episodes
There’s a lot to not like about this show. It’s mecha, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. The start gets really boring after the first couple of episodes, and constant production issues and delays have hounded the show. Thus, it is a testament to its quality that even after all these drawbacks, it has made its way into the hearts of this many people. The narrative and characters are just that good, and the show is as intense as any anime has ever been.
#9- Blue Period
Seven Arcs, Drama/Slice of life, 12 Episodes
Blue Period is the definition of a flawed adaptation, but the source material was so good that the show works this well despite not being what most people expected. It takes a while to get going, but there isn’t a deeper or more engaging anime around when it hits its stride. It features a fantastic soundtrack, some of the best character dynamics of this entire year in anime, and some deep artistic and philosophical ideas that elevate this show from good to great. It might not be the perfect adaptation, but it’s a fantastic anime all the same. Read the full review here!
#8- The Aquatope on White Sand
P.A. Works, Drama/Slice of Life, 24 Episodes
The Aquatope on White Sand is beautiful, magical, and spellbinding for some, boring and fruitless for others. I fall on the side of the former argument, and I’m proud of it. Slice of life anime are hit, or miss for most people, and opinions vary wildly based on preferences. If you share a passion for aquatic and marine life and have ever felt disconnected from your life enough to make you want to run away, you’ll love this show. To know more about why I love it so much, read this review!
#7- Megalobox 2- Nomad
TMS Entertainment, Action/Sci-fi/Sports, 13 Episodes
If you like the first season of Megalo Box, you’ll love Megalo Box Nomad. It is just as intense and hardcore as the first time around, as a grizzled old veteran Joe brings the gravitas to the show that was somewhat missing the first time around. The plot is even better in the second season, and almost everything has been ramped up and improved (except the ending, Kakatte Koi Yo is untouchable). Gearless Joe isn’t dead yet, neither is the passion for the series. Nomad is a fantastic sequel, yet it isn’t even the best sequel on this list.
#6- To Your Eternity
Brain’s Base, Adventure/Drama/Supernatural, 20 Episodes
“Vibe” is a slightly overused term these days, but it fits To Your Eternity like a glove. This show is a whole vibe and a fantastic one at that. Coming from the creator of A Silent Voice, it always had big shoes to fill, and it did them spectacularly. The series is emotional and exquisite in the best of ways and follows a great narrative about discovering the joy of just existing in this world, even if you have nothing to lose or gain.
#5- Mushoku Tensei
Studio Bind, Drama/Fantasy/Ecchi, 23 Episodes
Arguably the best Isekai of this year, Mushoku Tensei is a story of two halves, both of which started and ended in 2021. The first half that ran in Winter 2021 was your pretty standard but high-quality Isekai show that had some good concepts and managed to stand out from its peers, but the real magic happened at the end of the year in the Fall 2021 season. It was there that Mushoku Tensei transformed from just a good isekai show to a standard-bearer for the entire genre.
The second half of Mushoku Tensei was as good as the isekai genre has ever been. It used the usual tropes in a manner that will be emulated and copied years from now, maybe even decades. It reached the heights that one only dreamt of before this, and it isn’t even the last time we’ll see the series. Mushoku Tensei is an Isekai done perfectly.
#4- Odd Taxi
Studio OLM, Mystery, 13 Episodes
The secret to Odd Taxi‘s success lies a little deeper within its plot. It is the careless waving of seemingly disconnected stories into one giant coherent narrative that not only manages to intrigue but stands out as one of the best in the entire medium. Odd taxi was a risk in every sense of the word, and it paid off spectacularly. It entices one with lighthearted humour and captures their hearts and minds with its engulfing narrative that’s a tremendous example of how far the genre has come. Simply said, Odd Taxi is mind-blowing, and there are still three anime ahead of it.
#3- Komi Can’t Communicate
Studio OLM, Comedy/Slice of Life, 12 Episodes
Komi Can’t Communicate is Slice of Life perfection. Imagine any slice of life show in your head, crank everything up to a thousand, and imagine it being the best thing you ever saw. After doing all this, you might come close to imagining how good this show is. It does everything perfectly. The characters are great (except Yamai, but everyone gets a pass), the plot is solid and fun, the concept is just as tender as it is funny, and the show is overall just a blast. Komi Can’t communicate is just as perfect as its protagonist, Shouko Komi. Click here to read a review from the series!
#2- Fruits Basket: The Final
TMS Entertainment, Comedy/Drama/Slice of Life, 13 Episodes
From slice of life perfection to just overall greatness, it is time to talk about the final season of the readaptation of Fruits Basket. Endings are hard to nail for even the best of shows and writers, and writing endings that are better than the entirety of the show that came before it is another matter altogether. Somehow, not only was Fruits Basket able to tie its narrative into a perfect little knot of love and tears, but it took us on a journey that most of us will never forget. If it being this high up on the list hasn’t convinced you, maybe the 9.06 rating on MyAnimeList will?
#1- Sonny Boy
Studio Madhouse, Mystery, 12 Episodes
Sonny Boy was by far the most underrated show of this year. Few people watched it, fewer people understood it, and even fewer connected with it. However, those who did went through an anime experience that was unlike anything they had ever seen. They witnessed a tale of growing up and learning how to let go while saving themselves. While there were several tremendous shows this year, the only one good enough to be given the highest title of “Masterpiece” is this one. Sonny Boy is unique and special, just like you. That’s what makes it the best. Here’s our full review.
There’s the list! I’m sure I forgot to include something great, or maybe you disagree with some of these picks. Let me know in the comments!Follow us on Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.