Anime of the Year — 2021

Daniel Kihlgren Kallander
49 min readDec 25, 2021

(Several anime, that is.)

Btw, this post is over 12k words long and contains multiple large gifs, so let it load for a bit if it’s slow on mobile devices!

2021 has been a mostly fantastic year for those of us that consume anime. We’ve gotten everything and then some;

  • Great continuations to several successful series
  • Finales to a few of the biggest series in recent memory
  • Plenty of new favourites that I’m sure we will look back on fondly for years to come

But it has of course also continued to be a year of great uncertanity and unrest in the world, and likely you haven’t been able to keep up with what’s been great or worth going back to. Hell, I’ve tried to and watched through some 100+ anime series and movies this year, and I still have a backlog that just keeps growing.

So, this list is my way to try to make it easier for you to sort through the madness that are MAL scores and Reddit posts, and give a one-stop location for both the Must Watch series as well as the criminally underwatched shows that got lost in the avalanche of more mainstream series that we got.

None of these are really sorted ‘best to worst’, but I figured keeping it into categories makes it a bit easier to glance through. There are SEVENTY series and films listed here, after all, and each and every one is watchable.

MUST WATCH

You might be busy with other not-anime things, and even if you weren’t you probably don’t have time to see all the shows listed.

But no matter how much time you do have for anime, picking up and watching any of these following series are very likely going to be time well spent for you.

ODDTAXI

ODDTAXI

Spring this year gave us probably the biggest chunk of great shows this year, but standing out among even all of them was ODDTAXI. A Tarantino-esque murder mystery with a fantastic cast of characters, it has beats which are often more reminiscient of a live-action show than other anime. It also boasts one of the best openings of the year, which is bound to stick with you long after you’ve finished this 13-episode masterpiece:

There is no “Number One/Winner” on this list, and there are aspects of other shows that far exceeds some in ODDTAXI, but it is uniquely its own thing and if there is any one show I’d recommend you to watch above all others, this is it. I don’t really want to say anything else, as this is one of those “the less you know, the better” sort of series.

Just go watch ODDTAXI if you haven’t.

LAID-BACK CAMP / YURU CAMP SEASON 2

Laid-Back Camp / Yuru Camp Season 2

I don’t know why you watch anime, but for me it’s often something to wind down with after a day of work or to take my mind off the world for a while. Yuru Camp S2 continues to be one of the best series to fill that role.

This season continues to follow the main cast from the first season as we travel along for even more of their camping trips; all of which are to actual sites that you can visit and camp at in Japan.

Friendship, good food, and serene landscapes.

Be warned though: this series will make you start researching what camping equipment to buy next.

The ED this season feels like a mini-episode in itself, just without dialogue and foley.

ZOMBIELAND SAGA: REVENGE

Zombieland Saga: Revenge

I didn’t watch any Idol series until season one of Zombieland Saga appeared with its unique mix of music, comedy, and a sense of community. That last part does sort of originate from this just being a clever marketing campaign for the Saga region in Japan, but it is a great marketing campaign.

This second season is a fantastic follow-up to the first, which took people by surprise from the first minutes of its introduction. It does lack that same punch of unfamiliarity, but instead further hones in on the cast that we now have come to love. It also showcases significant boosts in the quality of the 3D dance models used compared to those in Season 1, making the dance- and song routines reach even higher highs than before. All of that combined with the same great level of comedy that we got in its first season makes this a must-watch for sure.

I highly recommend you watching the first season before jumping into this one if you haven’t already. I can promise you’re in for a fun time — unless you hate fun.

KOMI CAN’T COMMUNICATE

Komi Can’t Communicate / Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu

This adaptation shouldn’t be this good.

With the anime industry as a whole trying to crank out shows at speeds that are breaking animators (a discussion for another time), there are countless shows every year that are not-so-faithful adaptations of their source materials, and as a result end up being forgotten as just another show in the constant flow of mediocrity.

Komi Can’t Communicate is, thankfully, not one of those.

The story revolves around Tadano Hitohito, who after an encounter with classmate Komi Shoko decides to help her get 100 friends. See, Komi has a difficult time when trying to speak with people, and struggles to even vocalize a response to day-to-day greetings from her classmates. This new mission of theirs turns out to become challenging, as the school they just started at has some of the weirdest cast of personalities around.

This is however a comedy manga, to the point where each person’s name is a pun on their characteristics (Tadano Hitohito roughly translates to “normal/average person”, and Komi Shoko is a pun on “communication”), and there are a LOT of those kinds of great details in this well-thought-out series.

The adaptation manages to capture and translate many of the jokes of the original manga really well into the animation medium they’re now inhabiting. I don’t think I can really explain it properly in words, so let me just show you instead.

Manga:

Anime version:

It’s good!!!” is what I’m trying to say, and the 300+ chapters long manga provides plenty of scenarios to draw inspiration from for what hopefully hopefully will be multiple seasons to come.

Go watch it!

Also, if you cannot stand Netflix’s subtitles (which often doesn’t manage to convey even half of the context the series is trying to present to you), look up NovaWorks — you‘ll enjoy the show roughly 100 times more. They’re quite a bit behind on the releases, but you’ll appreciate them translating the kanji presented on-screen that other subtitles simply ignore, and the quality of their work is top-tier in terms integrating subtitles into the show. See examples below:

Fansubs (great, incorporated into the world) vs Official subs (non-exsistent)
Fansubs vs Official subs

MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID SEASON 2

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2 / Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon S

This is up here for several reasons.

First of all, I just like it. It has fantastic animation, excellent sound design, and great jokes throughout, much like its first season. That much is obvious.

Something that makes this extra special is the fact that this is Kyoto Animation’s first return to TV after the horrendous arson that took place at one of their locations in 2019, and the series through-and-through screams as a battlecry of “We’re back!”.

Its opening celebrates the 10-year anniversary of Nichijou, and they went all-in on animations in the show, both big and small; even the transitional frames between scenes sometimes have small easter eggs that you won’t normally catch on casual viewing.

This season stands even more than the first as a shining example of KyoAni’s capabilities as a studio, and if you can look past the characters large chests (“flame sacs”) despite them being very much in your face a lot, I promise you’re in for a grand time.

“How the f**k does a slice-of-life show manage to have better action animation than most shounen series this year??”
- Confused but happy friend

Beyond the Nichijou-inspired start of the OP, fhána returns with another cheery track that makes you swing in tune with the singing.
Kobayashi gets a lot of flack, but watch it and you’ll find plenty of joy and some kickass action all the same.

JUJUTSU KAISEN

Jujutsu Kaisen

While it started in October 2020, the first season didn’t actually complete until late March this year, and I’ll take any excuse to shove this anime in more people’s faces. Plus, the second half (the part actually airing this year) was extremely good on its own anyway.

One of the more recent Shonen Jump series we’ve gotten, Jujutsu Kaisen brings us into the world of curses and the Sorcerers that fight them. Highschooler Itadori Yuuji gets pulled into this world as, in order to protect his senpai’s from a curse that is trying to eat them, he swallows a cursed object to gain strength from it. This unfortunately awakens a Superior Curse that manifests within him. To the surprise of the Sorcerers who came to eliminate the curse in the first place, this does not kill him immediately, and Itadori even manages to supress the Superior Curse enough to remain in control of his own body.

As we learn more about this newfound side of the world, we’re steadily introduced to more and more interesting characters; most from the Sorcerer side of things, but also some villains in the form of various tiers of cursed beings.

It’s also an absolute sakuga FEAST through-and-through and delivers many of the year’s best action scenes, but it stands out even more because of how extremely STYLISH it is in almost everything it does.

Like, they didn’t have to make this hair flip that we only see for a few throwaway seconds this good. But they did, and I appreciate them for it.

I cannot recommend it enough, as long as you can stomach the horror-esque curses.

FRUITS BASKET: THE FINAL

Fruits Basket: The Final

The reboot of Fruits Basket had its final season this spring, and if I could summarize it in one word it would be: FEELINGS

Fruits Basket is one of the more well-known shoujo stories out there, and for good reason. “The best character is a flawed character” it’s often said, and this zodiac-themed cast bring plenty of stories and characters that interweave and connect to one another, all the while doing a great job of showcasing those flaws front-and-center. It gets a bit frustrating at times (I found myself thinking “why would anyone ever do that?!” more than I’d like), but the payoffs and reveals throughout kept being satisfying again and again — although sometimes a bit too obvious.

Overall, it made great use of its second attempt to bring the story to animation, and I can highly recommend giving it a watch.

Obviously this is not something you’d want to jump into in its third and final (and shortest) season, so go back to the first season from 2019 and start from there, in order to later come into the third and final season.

Just be sure to have some tissues ready for the cascade of tears that inevitably will come.

There are very few over-the-top sakuga shots or similar to share for a show like this that couldn’t be considered story spoilers, so enjoy a cute gif of Tohru and her friends being the best BFFs:

Side note: Hanajima Saki was my favourite character, by far.

LINK CLICK / SHI GUANG DAI LI REN

This isn’t the first chinese-made anime series I’ve ever seen, but the it is the best so far — by far. Even better than a lot of Japanese-made anime this year.

Two friends run a photo store together, inherited from one of their families. While they do develop photos in-house and will answer any question you have about cameras, it is just a cover for their real business; solving mysteries by going back in time through photographs.

Lu Guang can ‘see’ the past as if through a persons eyes using photos they have taken, but only a few hours worth, and only the gist of what happens.

Cheng Xiaoshi can ‘enter’ the person as they were back then through those same photographs for 12 hours, but needs Lu Guang’s help and guidance through their telepathic link to make sure he doesn’t change the past, or he risks erasing the future he came from.

The two use their powers to help people finding things they’ve lost, or to uncover truths that are otherwise gone with time. But inhabiting others during important moments of their lives without being able to control what happens not only takes an ever-increasing emotional toll; they’re soon dragged into something bigger than what they had signed up for.

Link Click is a mystery thriller with a supernatural story grounded in our world, and has both themes and moments more similar to live action TV shows than many anime series. While the animation will be lackluster here and there, the important frames are present, making the characters come to life for long enough to not look ‘bad’ per se. There is also an episode or two that may feel like they drag out the story without getting anywhere, but I’d recommend pushing through those anyway.

Multiple times I found myself at the edge of my seat at the end of an episode as the excellent rap beats of its ED starts to swell up — many times in perfect unison with the story’s pacing. I often felt that I couldn’t wait; I needed to find out what will happen next.

Link Click is the series I’d recommend you to give a chance after ODDTAXI.

THE GREAT ONES THAT ARE STILL AIRING

These ones are fantastic, but as we’ve seen plenty of times (even as recently as earlier this year, but we’ll get to that later) an ending can make or break the overall perception of a series.

Nevertheless, the current lack of an ending is the ONLY thing that is currently keeping these from a place in the Must Watch category, and I strongly recommend them based on what we’ve seen so far.

RANKING OF KINGS

The out-of-nowhere hit of the latest season. Imagine Grimm fairytales meets classic shounen power-up progression and plot.

There aren’t many moments in this series where you don’t root for the little Prince Bojji. Sadly, not many around him seem to do the same. As the son of the incredibly powerful King Bosse, ranked number 1 king across all the lands, there are great expectations put on Bojji that he, well, fails to live up to in the eyes of the royal court. Life is unfortunately much harder when you are deaf, after all.

After a surprise encounter with the black blob Kage of the assassin clan, things start to quickly unfold for Bojji, and we’re taken on an adventure with a surprising amount of twists and turns.

The ONLY thing stopping me from putting this as a Must Watch is the fact that we’re only 11 or so episodes in out of 23 total, so a lot of things can still happen that either elevate or hurt the series.

That said, as of right now, you’d do yourself a disservice to not go and watch this show.

86 (Season 1 and 2)

Strong content warning on this one (blood, gore, war, etc)

Starting with its Season 1 in the Winter 2021 block, the second season is “currently airing” with all but its final two episodes aired (those are scheduled to air in March for some reason), and likely a third season following that sometime in the future. It’s based on a still-running light novel series, and while it already had a lot of excitement from fans before the anime started, the adaptation have now gathered the series even more fans.

If you ask the citizens of the Republic of San Magnolia, there are no casualties in their ongoing war against the neighbouring Giadian Empire thanks to their superior remote-controlled technology.

Vladilena Milizé knows that it’s all propaganda though, as she is one of the “Handlers” of the supposed remote-controlled machinery that the Republic uses to protect its eighty-five districts. In reality, the only remote controlling being done is comunicating with and directing the people piloting their war machines — people born in the slums, aka district Eighty-Six. Only the Alba, people with fair skin and silver hair, can live within the eighty-five ‘proper’ districts; anyone else gets tossed aside to the slums.

I hope I don’t have to explain what this is supposed to be an analogy of.

Vladilena is one of the few in the Republic military that still consider “the eighty-six” humans, and is constantly harassed over the fact. Despite that, she continues to fight against their inhumane discrimination. She gets reassigned as a result — becoming the Handler for the infamous Spearhead squadron. Their captain, Shinei Nouzen, is equally infamous for being the sole survivor of every squadron he’s ever been in, and insists on shouldering the names and wishes of his fallen comrades.

We slowly start to get to know the faces of the Spearhead squadron, and witness the ongoing war from both within the safe confines of the halls of central San Magnolia HQ as well as through the eyes of the eighty-six that fight and die each day.

86 is as brutal as it is stunning, and while the 3D machines might be jarring at times, it rapidly becomes just a part of this world as moments both on and off the battlefield contain their fair share of emotional and physical trauma for the characters.

MOVIES and SHORTS

Looking for something a little bit shorter than a full series? These are some of the movies and shorts released this year that are well worth a watch!

EVANGELION 3.0+1.0 THRICE UPON A TIME

Yes, Evangelion had an Actual Ending this year, and it’s pretty damn watchable. You’d obviously want to watch the 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 movies before this one, but oh wow is this a visual feast. It’s still Evangelion and deals with the same themes as always, but this is by far the most visually stunning (and comprehensible) version yet. It looks and feels like the culmination of a franchise almost 25 years in the making.

WORDS BUBBLE UP LIKE SODA POP

While a far cry from a great movie, it has some of fun animation (although somewhat front-loaded), and a vibrant colour palette that draws you in. It’s a relaxing summer flick about an old man who lost a cherished record, and the love blooming between the two teenagers that start looking for it.

A bit too generic to be ‘great’, but it’s on Netflix so it’s a very accessible watch.

STAR WARS: VISIONS

An anthology of nine standalone short films, made by seven major anime studios. Not only do they showcase nine different and fantastic animation styles in 15-to-23 mintues; it’s also nine interesting looks at parts of the Star Wars universe that we rarely get to see in the regular movies and recent TV series. All of it is strictly non-canon, and you will not recognize most of the characters, but still highly worth a watch. Though I will say that while some are obviously better than others, I consider more than half of them well worth watching; the rest being at least okay.

This is a really hype trailer

ARTISWITCH

A mostly 3D-animated short 6-episode web anime about fashion, accepting yourself, and rejecting what other people think. Borrows a lot of inspiration from the Harajuku district of Tokyo and it’s own subculture, often seen as the home of “extreme fashion”.

It’s short, has a nice message, and some great music and visuals to boot.

Oh, and it’s all free to watch on Youtube.
(TW: suggestion of suicide)

I’ve played the main theme ad nauseum since I started watching the series.

MINI DRAGON

A series of 2-minute standalone shorts with the characters from Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon S.

A great taste of what the main series brings if you’re new to it and want to see what’s up, or neat extra content for those already enjoying the main show. You can’t really go wrong with it!

The latter part of the “second season” of the shorts are due sometime in January 2022.

THE WAY OF THE HOUSE HUSBAND/GOKUSHUFUDOU

A manga adaption that is… “animated”. They’ve honestly pretty much just taken the manga panels as they were, but then dragged character cutouts around and had actors voicing them. It’s different, but works surprinsingly well. Any other show like this would likely not have made it to this list, but the comedy is just SO GOOD and the VO casting is spot on.

Tatsu “the immortal dragon” is a former Yakuza hitman who once terrorized the rival gangs. That was years ago though, and he now lives his days taking care of the home while his very successful wife brings in the checks through her job as a designer. As such, the comedy is based on the juxtaposition of a hard-boiled gangster using the only vocabulary he’s ever known to get through daily routines and socializing with both the older ladies in the neighbourhood as well as the old ‘colleagues’ he runs into now and then.

When a knife salesman comes by, Tatsu obviously feels the need to try out the knife before deciding on whether to purchase them or not.

It’s goddamn hilarious.

THE BIG CONTINUING SERIES

All of these are series that I would recommend picking up from the beginning, but you probably already know if they’re for you or not, so I’ll only give brief thoughts on each.

RE:ZERO S2 PART 2

It’s more Re:Zero. If you like it you’ve probably seen S2 already, but if you haven’t given it a shot yet I highly recommend going back to season 1 and starting this series. It’s one of the most popular series for good reason.

TW for torture and gore, though.

THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME S2

Ugh… I love this series, but this season had both some of its best and worst moments yet. On one hand, it will drag on seemingly forever with long, stiff conversations that don’t take advantage of the medium it’s in, while other parts contains some of the best emotional beats and events the series has seen thus far.

Overall it’s a great treat though, especially when paired with the slice-of-life spin-off “Slime Diaries” that aired between parts 1 and 2 of season 2, and I highly recommend it if you’ve seen the first season.

Treyni keeps sulking in Slime Diaries because she doesn’t always get invited to partake in the fun stuff, like when they do gardening.

NOMAD: MEGALO BOX 2

A second season that had lower lows and not as high highs throughout, IMO.

The boxing is even less in focus this time, as our protagonist now spends his time running away from his past. He encounters and starts hanging around the titular Nomad on his journey, until realizing that he may need to come back to confront what he himself left behind.

It is an even more emotional story than the first season, but whether that is a good thing or not is up for you to decide.

IRUMA-KUN S2

When I saw promotional materials depicting a sort of “evil Iruma”, it made me fear that they would ruin the innocent child that he is and make him evil for the drama’s sake or something… But turns out he basically just gets more confident, and it fits really well to the arc that uses it.

And so basically the demon-filled wholesomeness continues!

Clara is still best girl.

MY HERO ACADEMIA S5

Much like with Re:Zero, if you liked the series so far you’ll like this as well.

Personally I feel this season is sort of a midway point between two more interesting story arcs, and thus the high points didn’t reach as high as previous seasons. Nonetheless, there are plenty of fun character moments throughout, and the story elements that are present are well worth watching.

BEASTARS S2

YOASOBI has exploded in popularity this year, and provides music to both OP and ED this season.

Studio Orange step up their 3D animation game yet again, as the furry theatrics continue on, as does the unsolved mystery Legosi is trying to solve.

Hormones are still flying everywhere as tensions further rise between herbivores and carnivores. Can the two types of animals really still co-exist?

And what is Louis up to now?

THE HEALING ONES

While Yuru Camp S2 goes above and beyond the rest and thus earned a spot on the Must Watch list, the following are all ones to watch when you want something else to soothe your soul.

SUPER CUB

I mean, just look at that smile!

Essentially a very long Honda commercial, but it is a fantastic Honda commercial.

Koguma lives a quiet life by herself, attending High School and not doing much else when she one day gets inspired to get a motorbike. She quickly realizes that she’s nowhere near affording a new one, but the old shopkeep offers an old Super Cub for very little money. As she sits down on it for the first time, a rush of joy overcomes her. She has now started taking her first step outside her comfort zone, and throughout the series we follow her as she continues to expand her own world (both figuratively and literally).

That “sitting down on the moped” moment was also the point where I went “ooooooh, that’s what they did that” and knew I wanted to keep watching. You’ll hopefully see what I mean.

There’s not really much more to say. It’s wholesome, great, and more importantly calm, so don’t expect some grand adventure.

KIYO IN KYOTO: FROM THE MAIKO HOUSE/MAIKO-SAN CHI NO MAKANAI-SAN

Being a Maiko in Kyoto is hard work (Maiko = training to become a Geisha/ Geiko). Thankfully for this house, Kiyo takes good care of their meals so they can keep their spirits high. She originally wanted to join the others in being a Maiko herself, but it quickly became apparent that it didn’t suit her. Around that time, the resident cook suddenly got injured and Kiyo being the helpful and caring girl that she is just started taking care of the meals instead — deciding to support the other Maiko, including her long-time friend Sumire, much to the rejoice of the girls living there.

Each episode is essentially 2-to-3 mini-episodes with each retelling a different occassion where Kiyo has to cook up a dish, serving as fantastic inspiration for cooking something up yourself at home. They don’t necessarily detail the recipies, but with some basic cooking knowledge you can definitely recreate most of them, should you have the ingredients available. After each story bit, they wind down with a cup of tea and chat about the details of and history behind what we just saw.

Whatever you do though, don’t go into this expecting any over-the-top animation. Or to put it this way; I’m actually very impressed with how much milage they get out of both their 2D and 3D work given how little animation is used, as it’s still more than enough for the content they want to present.

It’s a great little show where everyone has a good time and is nice to each other. Put it on when you want something relaxing and wholesome, and get ready to become a bit hungry.

THE SAINT’S MAGIC POWER IS OMNIPOTENT/SEIJO NO MAIRYOKU WA BANNOU DESU

A mostly forgotten Isekai that many didn’t even give a chance, but one I’m glad I saw.

We follow Sei, who one day after coming home from her office job suddenly gets summoned to another world. When she comes to, she finds herself surrounded by mages and knights together with another woman. The Prince then bursts into the room, approaches the two, takes a knee, and extends his hand, proclaiming “You are our Holy Saint!”.

To the other woman.

Sei is then left seemingly forgotten (but attended to) in a room in the castle with nothing to really do, until she while on a walk one day stumbles upon a herbal garden nearby and ends up joining the research institute that use them for potion-making, where she also starts learning about the magic of this world. And from there the story really starts… except without really going that far? Like, 90% of the series is just her “accidentally” making overpowered potions at the Institute and others around her being amazed with her magical powers. It’s also a sort of reverse-harem situation, but without it feeling the need to go full-on harem show which I find refreshing and nice. She just flirts with the local captain at times, they’re cute together.

It’s super cute without feeling the need to go full moe, and fairly grounded despite the fantastical setting and grand magic involved at times. There is some semblance of a conflict with the aforementioned Prince, who stands his ground by his earlier proclamation, but it honestly just made me groan a bit whenever the conflict was mentioned because of it being less interesting. Despite that though, I highly recommend the show overall.

THE SCARY AND/OR ABSURD

Some of these will scare with ghost stories or malshapen creatures, whereas others just make you feel at unease with its abstract themes.

They’re still good shows all the same.

OTHERSIDE PICNIC / URASEKAI PICNIC

It does supernatural abstract weirdness really well and has good characters, but there’s always something missing for me. It might be the lackluster animation, the quiet soundscape at times, or the abstract transitions not really hitting well.

Whatever it is, it’s frustrating because I love the concept of the series and want to share it more, but at the same time I also feel that it will bore and/or confuse the hell out of most people, which is probably why its sitting at a fairly low score.

The Otherside is a place hidden behind certain ‘doors’ in many places around our own world. A ‘door’ can be a normal door, a time in space, a specific sequence of events, or even just an invisible wall you suddenly walk through — each ‘door’ a portal that take you to a world where many urban legends are actually real.

Sorao Kamikoshi stumbles into the Otherside and encounters one of its horrors. Just as she is about to give up, Toriko Nishina finds her and helps her defeat it. As they talk to eachother afterwards it turns out that Toriko has been coming here often, scouring the Otherside in hopes of finding her friend Satsuki who she believes is lost somewhere within the realm. As Sorao and Toriko decide to join forces, friendship starts blooming.

Horror stories, glitched realities, guns, and lost military squads are just some of the things waiting in the Otherside.

MIERUKO-CHAN

Mieruko-chan is a horror-ecchi-comedy series adapted from a great webcomic-turned-manga. Sadly, it failed balancing its genres properly and opens up with being 90% ecchi throughout its first 4 episodes, after which it gives way and allows the horror-comedy main plot to really kick in.

In the show, we follow Miko, who some day suddenly became able to see the ghastly misshapened ghosts that roam all around, invisible to normal people. Being an otherwise normal highschool girl with no way to deal with them, she simply pretends to not see them, despite still being scared shitless.

As with many anime adaptations of its kind, the horror elements do not really translate effectively into animation, and the series does suffer a bit as a result. There are some Junji Ito-caliber monster designs in here, but the rest of the elements of the show doesn’t really hold up enough to capture their intended terror. Somewhat amusingly, I think the OP and ED both make a better job of showcasing the juxtaposition of the horror and comedy aspects of the show than the main story often does:

If you do decide to watch this and can’t stand the ecchi side of things, I’d suggest skipping to episode 5 immediately as you will only really miss out on one or two “important” moments; the rest you should be able to pick up on fairly quickly.

SONNY BOY

After a high school is teleported somewhere for seemingly no reason, its now stranded students start to manifest abstract supernatural abilities, and we follow them as they try to explore their weird new reality while also trying to find a way to get back home.

Just the surreal imagery and story alone makes it a standout series of the year

There’s not much more I’d want to say about this one. It has a looser but more rotoscope-reliant style than a lot of other anime this year, and the abstract themes lends itself to some decent mysteries that we get to follow along with from time to time. It’s all very… flat though, with the highs not being particularly high, and the lows often being too abstract to really hit through. As such, it didn’t quite reach the level of Must Watch, but it’s still an enjoyable one if you want something different. There are some Lord of the Flies-esque elements to it as well, but none of it goes quite that far.

Just don’t expect too much of it, and you’ll have a good time.

SHADOWS HOUSE

Yet another series that early on felt like it could be a Must Watch, but fell short as the story progressed.

They manage to explain some of its intriguing mysteries early on, but for me they didn’t replace it with interesting enough story beats to keep the show as captivating all the way through.

Beyond one or two moments of almost pure horror, it also didn’t feel as tense as expected, and they give a lot of time to character interactions that don’t seem to have much bearing to the story.

By the end it left me wanting more as, despite a lack of tension towards the end, the gothic style and mysterious setting constantly kept me from dropping the series.

GODZILLA: SINGULAR POINT

If you’ve seen a Godzilla movie/show/anything really, you’ll know mostly what to expect in terms of the grander story arc, except this time they’ve updated their sci-fi mumbo jumbo; discussing quantum theories, self-aware AI, alternate dimensions, and more throughout the series. They also don’t just focus on Japan, but instead also manages to travel to different parts of the world which felt refreshing (although Japan and Tokyo are obviously still central in the story).

There are however some really awful 3D monsters that still kind of works within the world of the series…?

The characters are quirky and excellent, and I kept watching week after week just to see what sci-fi bulls**t they’d come up with next. It’s not a smart series by any means, but it was a decently fun watch nonetheless.

VAMPIRES. SO MANY VAMPIRES.

We’ve gotten four good-to-great series with vampires this year; even more if I’d add the absolutely terrible ones (I won’t).

MARS RED

Hands down some of the best serene cinematography this year.

A fantastic show that let me down with its less grounded second half. It is however consistently visually striking, with plenty of theater references and great character moments throughout.

We’re tossed into an alternate 1920’s Japan where vampires exists. Tokyo is facing a potential vampire crisis, and a secret squad within the army that mostly consist of vampires is sent to deal with it. Did I mention that this show has vampires?

It ultimately lacks the big action set pieces that would’ve been needed to keep the interest of many anime watchers, but the character moments and cinematic visuals made the series well worth keeping up with.

While we don’t see them too often, the way they show vampiric powers in Mars Red feels fresh and exciting. I especially love their depiction of quick movements.

THE CASE STUDY OF VANITAS

More vampires, although these are a lot more colorful.

We’re tossed into a 19th century alternate history Paris where magic and massive airships exist, but we focus on the vampiric society rather than on groups of humans trying to ‘deal with’ them (though they do appear).

The vampire Noé is on a quest to find the feared Book of Vanitas, a supposedly cursed item that contain the means to ‘bring retribution upon all vampires’, formerly belonging to a powerful vampire of the same name. Not long after we meet Noé, he quickly finds himself face-to-face with a human who calls himself Vanitas and who claims to have the legendary book in his possession. Why does a mere human have it? And if the Book is actually real, why hasn’t it been used to eradicate vampires yet?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Studio Bones can do some great action sequences (and comedic moments).

Where Mars Red could be compared to a more stoic theatrical performance, this is definitely a more typical anime show with plenty of the medium’s tropes. The Case Study of Vanitas does a great job of focusing on the two main character’s relationship while also allowing some interesting side characters to mingle inbetween them, but we don’t really get enough of the antagonists to know why things are the way they are in the story.

Very much looking forward to Season 2, starting in January 2022.

IRINA: THE VAMPIRE COSMONAUT

For a more wholesome vam- wait, no, never mind, they have that mouth scene.

Ok, jokes aside, apart from the intentionally suggestive way they animated that one scene, it is actually mostly wholesome.

The story revolves around an alternate reality version of the 60’s space race, this time between not-Soviet Union and not-United States. We follow the not-Soviet side where they have “enlisted” a vampire to be a test subject, whose mission is to ride a rocket to space before any “real humans” do, to make sure its safe.

Let, one of the human candidates in the first cosmonaut program, is punished with training the (very tsundere) vampire Irina after he hurt a superior officer. Thankfully for her, Let turns out to be among the few who is able to view Vampires as equals, as opposed to his comrades who view them as lesser animals. Naturally, the two get to know each other and draw ever closer, but how will the pending rocket mission go…?

Overall a very clean animation style that lends itself well to the not-so-actionpacked story we’re led through. While there certainly are high stakes in a sense, it is during the inter-personal moments that this anime shines, but the lack of things happening will bore some. Your milage may vary.

THE VAMPIRE DIES IN NO TIME

A trashy comedy where Vampire Hunter Ronaldo accidentally destroys the timid vampire Draluc’s castle, so they arrange for Draluc to stay at Ronaldo’s place for the time being. The trouble is, Draluc is so timid that he dies and turns into a pile of sand at even the slightest scares and inconviences. Add in an ever expanding quirky cast of characters and vampires, and you get comedy!

Or something.

It’s funny and a good time in a trash sort of way, but we got some even better comedies this year, which neatly brings us to…

COMEDIES

What’s deemed fun is always a bit different depending on who you ask, but this year brought plenty to choose from, so I‘m confident there is at least one series among them that will make you cry with laughter.

URAMICHI ONIISAN

Arguably the best Comedy of the year, and painfully relatable at times.

“Together with Mama” is a childrens TV programme, and we follow its main cast and presenters throught their struggles as they suffer through life as late 20- and early 30-somethings, while also needing (and failing) to be all smiles at a demanding workplace.

While I found the first episode hilarious, I was afraid that the jokes wouldn’t land as hard by the final episodes, but I’m happy to say that that couldn’t be further from the truth! I was crying with laughter even by the thirteenth episode, almost more so than early episodes — and that was after marathoning the series with friends!

In short, it’s funny AND depressing!

DON’T TOY WITH ME, MISS NAGATORO

Under the edgy surface lies a very wholesome love story about two nervous characters finding comfort in eachother.

It’s honestly one of the better romcoms of the year, and if you’re one of the ones who has shyed away from it due to the rumored ‘bullying’ aspects of the show, I can tell you that they’re very overblown.

I mean just look at that face. Means no harm what-so-ever…

Well, to some extent at least. Nagatoro loves to push her senpai’s buttons and is somewhat insidious about it at first, but they both very quickly come to respect each others differences, and as the show goes on there are fewer and fewer shit-eating grins, slowly replaced instead by more and more nervous blushes. It is definitely also a bit risqué at times, though.

If you can still tolerate high school romcoms (which I don’t blame you if you don’t, there are so many of them), then I highly recommend giving Nagatoro a try.

Also, Noodle-toro

MY SENPAI IS ANNOYING

A cute office comedy where the gimmick is that the main character is very short while her “annoying” (read: very supportive) senpai is HUGE. Incredibly wholesome most of the time, with the exception of some of the coworkers staring at breasts all the time or openly discussing how to get the hot girls of the office to go out with them.

But ignore those, as the rest of the cast are absolutely delightful, and I enjoy every second of any of their interactions. Also comes with a kickass opening:

We don’t get enough scenes with the resident office alcoholic, Tsukishiro-san. (it’s actually water)

HAMEFURA S2

Catarina Claes has passed all doom flags for now, but what now awaits in this unknown isekai world based of the otome games she used to play?

Hamefura continues to be the mostly wholesome comedy established in its first season, with an equally airheaded but steadfast Catarina still cherished by all her dearest friends. There are fewer really great moments this season, but seeing Catarina constantly just trying to get more sweets and tea no matter the situation continues to be fun.

Dark magic also makes a return to provide some chaos to the otherwise peaceful story, and it has a few moments of men taking advantage of Catarina’s defenselessness which come uncomfortably close to crossing lines that I didn’t think this series would be at all near. Take caution.

JAHY-SAMA WON’T BE DISCOURAGED

Jahy-sama won’t be discouraged / Jahy-sama wa kujikenai!

Honestly, this might be the least good/most generic trash series on the list, but it’s a perfect “do something else while you watch this”-anime.

Long story short, Jahy is usually second-in-command in the Dark Realm, but after a Magical Girl destroys the power of the Dark Lord, some of the denizens there gets sent to our world. Here, Jahy is so low on magic power that she can only maintain her true form a few hours per day, time which she uses to work at a local pub in order to pay rent for her shitty apartment and the bare minimum amount of food.

The stubborn and spoiled Jahy eventually starts encountering other beings from the Dark Realm, and in trying to not lose face begins to lie about her status in this world, which leads to several hijinks.

Those hijinks do get better as the series progresses, but needing to sit down and pay full attention when watching the earlier episodes feels a bit overkill, hence I recommend just having it on in the background for a lot of its run.

MUSIC AND THEATRICS

While overall the sound design in series this year has been at an all-time high, these all have music and/or theatrics at its core, often elevating them even higher.

VIVY: FLOURITE EYE’S SONG

This has some of the best fight choreography and animations in anime this year, and has been called an Anime of the Year contender several times, especially in its early episodes.

Vivy, or Diva, is the world’s first autonomous humanoid AI, and she has one single mission/purpose: to make everyone happy by singing.

One day, another AI appears in her programming, Matsumoto, who claims to be from 100 years in the future. He warns about a pending disaster where all AI goes rogue and destroys humanity, and Diva has been chosen to help stop this. To accomplish this, the two of them will have to intervene at several important turning points in the history up to that point, a task dubbed the Singularity Project.

Throughout the series, we’re being faced with plenty of philosophical questions about what it means to be human, and how far is too far in the creation and pursuit of true artificial intelligence.

It’s another Wit Studio project, and they flex their abilities over and over again throughtout the series’ 13 episodes. Again, the fight choreography is animated beautifully, but there are also plenty of emotionally impactful story beats over the course of the series, and although I can definitely see this being close to the top on many ‘of the Year’ lists, it didn’t hit that much with me. Maybe it in part has to do with my daytime job which involves game AI, through which I may have become a bit jaded against yet another “oh no, AI bad” story.

Despite still being an otherwise great show, the brutality displayed might put some people off. It’s not completely unfair to compare its own brutal opening moments to the famous opening sequence of Attack on Titan, seeing as there are supposedly many from that same team that created this fully original story.

Oh, and I almost forgot the music. Somewhat unsurprinsingly for a show with a singer AI as a main character, there are plenty of great scores (both vocalized and instrumental) that play throughout.

See the first two episodes if you’re on the fence about it, as by the end of episode two you’ll have a rather clear sense of what this show will offer.

TAKT OP. DESTINY

The animation presented in the OP manages to not misrepresent the quality of the animation we get in the series, at least not for the first few episodes.

Based on a not-yet-released mobile game, we enter a world where aliens (“D2s”) previously appeared on earth and went berserk over any and all types of music. To humanity’s aid came the Musicarts, beings that are believed to be “the embodiment of classical music pieces”, who together with their human counterparts Maestros fight the D2s in spectacular action scenes.

We mostly follow Maestro Takt and Musicart Destiny’s journey across a largely destroyed USA after the D2 sudden appearance 5 years prior. The two are on a quest to find out why Destiny suddenly appeared, and what can be done about the bond that the two now share, together with big sis Anna.

With character designs by LAM plus talented teams at MAPPA and Madhouse behind it, it’s an absolute feast for the eyes to watch. Being a music-oriented anime as well, it has plenty of classical music accompanying it that blends surprisingly well with its other parts.

Some will no doubt put this in their Must Watch lists, and while it does go above and beyond what most other game-based mixed media projects usually do, it doesn’t quite carry it’s inital animations quality through to the later parts of the series, and the story is… passable.

THESE SNOW WHITE NOTES

While having several great performances, it did kind of peak at episode one for me. Afterward it shifts focus and calms down quite a bit, then fumbles the ending (which I’m getting a bit upset over again just thinking back to it), but it remains a decent music anime, and if nothing else a great reminder of how nice a shamisen sounds.

Setsu Sawamura’s grandfather was regarded as the best shamisen player in all of Japan, and on his deathbed tells Setsu to give up playing “if you can’t stop imitating others and find your own sound instead”.

This traumatizes Setsu, and in a desperate attempt to prove his late grandfather and himself wrong, he runs away from home to Tokyo in order to find himself and ways to improve.

I do have a soft spot for when the love for an instrument or a music genre shines through, and this series sure loves the Shamisen.

This is just the first 50 seconds of the These Snow White Notes.

SELECTION PROJECT

A slightly different kind of Idol show compared to the usual group-based ones. Here, we’re thrown into what’s essentially “American Idol” the anime, where which person moves on is decided by viewer votes. Well, at least that’s the base premise of it…

14-year-old Suzune enters the Selection Project in its 7th season. Suzune has loved to sing since she was young, and was greatly inspired by the first season’s winner Akari Amasawa, who suddenly passed away after a car crash three years ago. Now, Suzune has a chance to stand on the same stage, and as we enter her life she’s about to compete in the regional finals…

I’m going to stick with just calling it ‘different’ and not say much more to avoid spoilers (it’s nothing earth-shattering or supernatural, don’t get your hopes up!). If you’ve seen other idol shows in the past you know what to expect in terms of visual quality, and the music is obviously great:

I’d kind of recommend NOT listening to this ED now as you’ll hear it plenty in the first episodes, but leaving it here in case you need an extra push to see it.

Very wholesome!

ALSO — if you want more idols, IDOLY PRIDE from this year’s Winter season had an uncanny amount of B plot similarities to Selection Project, and will likely scratch a similar itch. I considered listing it as its own entry, but, well.. *looks at list* …I wrote about too many series already, and we still have more than a few to go through!

KAGEKI SHOUJO!!

Another different kind of “idol” show that is also wholesome — but this time it’s about a theater school!

Watanabe Sarasa has gotten through to the final round of admissions into the most prestigeous theater school in Japan — the all-girls Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts — but stands out amongst the crowd as people gather for the tryouts. Like, literally, as she’s almost a head taller than all the other girls joining that year; “Like a graceful gazelle”. She’s a bit absentminded, and not aware of the ‘rules’ of this new place, so when she extends a greeting to a quiet lonesome girl under the Kouka cherry tree, she’s unaware of the curse they just placed on themselves:
“If you stand beneath the Kouka cherry tree before you’re admitted, you will never, ever, be a Kouka top star.”

That other girl under the tree is Narata Ai, former idol, and the person on everyone’s mind during admissions. She recently ‘graduated’ her group after lashing out against a fan, and many question if she really is worthy to be at such a prestigeous place as Kouka.

However, it soon becomes apparent that the two definitely are there to stay.

Kageki Shoujo!! is a story about finding new friends and experiencing new heights within yourself, with some added competition in between as the students compete for the elusive handful of positions as Top Stars in the school. It’s happy and incredibly colourful, and a joy to watch.

THE GOOD

The following are all just simply ‘good’ anime. They all are no doubt “Must Watch” for some, but make certain choices or lack that something extra which will put a lot of people off.

I like them though.

(Also they didn’t really fit any other category.)

THE HEIKE STORY / HEIKE MONOGATARI

One of those OPs that you probably won’t want to skip as it starts with each new episode yet again.

Historical anime, retelling the events that led up to the downfall of the then great Heike (or Taira) clan in Japan. Beautifully animated, and directed by Naoko Yamada who previously directed several shows at Kyoto Animation such as K-On, Tamako Market, and A Silent Voice.

It’s told through great watercolor-inspired art, and utilizes supernatural elements made tangible through the fantastic animation. We follow Biwa, a young girl who is taken into Taira Shigemori’s care after losing her father. She’s not just any girl though, as her right eye has the power to see the eventual deaths of the people she chooses to look at.

With the story involving dozens of characters, there are moments where it will be hard to keep track of the people involved — the different time skips and sudden relocations of characters to other places also doesn’t help.

But they also use that as a strength, and play with it through things like showing a messenger relaying information about a coming battle only for the next cut to be the same messenger now back to report of a loss of that very same battle some time later.

It has some great although unexpected BGM for a historical show like this, and I can’t wait for them to hopefully release the OST sometime.

The Heike Story won’t be for all, but for those of you sticking with it will be rewarded with many likeable characters as well as great artistry throughout.

SHIN NO NAKAMA

aka “Shin no Nakama ja Nai to Yuusha no Party wo Oidasareta node, Henkyou de Slow Life suru Koto ni Shimashita”, or “Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside”. It’s a long-ass title; let’s stick with just Shin no Nakama, ok?

If it wasn’t for the action-oriented sections of this series, this would’ve been right at home in the “Healing Ones” category. I mean, just listening to the opening gives you a pretty good idea of most of the series:

The story centers around Gideon, big brother to the Hero Ruti. It’s a fairly standard fantasy world; adventure guilds, adventurers, Demon Lords, and Heroes, all the classics. The main twist is that people here have what’s called a Blessing; a sort of calling that you randomly get as you grow up, and this often shapes what sort of person you want to become.

Gideon, who has the Blessing of a Guide, gets suddenly ousted from the Hero’s Party by another member for “being too weak” and only ever mastering “useless skills”, saying that they don’t need him slowing them down as they get closer to more dangerous areas. Gideon sees through the bullshit but decides to go along with it, and takes this opportunity to start a new life by changing his name to Red and settle down in Zoltan, a remote town located in a quieter part of their world.

As luck would have it, an old companion of his, Rit, has also decided to hang around Zoltan as an adventurer and as the two meet again old feelings start to rekindle…

There are plenty of short and cute animations like this sprinkled throughout Shin no Nakama, especially for our main cast.

All in all, the series has a fairly wholesome coating, but with some dark-underbelly type organizations butting in it does get bloody at times, plus there’s a surprising amount of skinship compared to other anime of its kind — but its all of the more innocent sort despite showing plenty ofskin at times.

I really appreciate this series and for a lot of its run I considered it one of the best of the Fall 2021 season. But the gutter-tier “villains” and some… not great animation brings it down more than a few notches, especially towards the end. Even without that though, this will definitely lean more towards the Trash side of things for most people.

It is mostly great Trash though.

SK8

Boys. Skateboards. Studio Bones. If you like it you’ll probably love it, if you don’t then you still will have pretty animation (and boys) to look at.

Story is kind of whatever, especially the villain, but that’s bound to happen as they’re trying to fit a lot of over-the-top characters and story into a single underground skate location.

For me it was just simply a Good time.

…but I hear that the dub is, uh, pretty incredible. So much so that I’m considering rewatching the series just to experience it.

SSSS.DYNAZENON

Follow-up to its namesake SSSS.GRIDMAN in 2018, although not a direct “sequel” per se — DYNAZENON very much stands on its own as a great show. It continues the homage/parody of Tokusatsu shows with an added TRIGGER flair. This time we’re presented with a brand new cast and threat, along with a overarching focus on the quiter moments inbetween the action set pieces that are delivered with an ever increasing underlying nonchalante tone of “yeah, yeah, another epic transformation sequence, we get it already”.

That focus on quiet moments will probably bore people though, as will the intentionally campy Tokusatsu homages, especially if you’re coming into this expecting all-action all the time.

They really let the quiet moments play out for way longer than other shows usually do.

Like, there’s this 10000-year-old revenge plot brewing as a B plot, but the calm and awkward emotions between the cast members still stood out the most.

TO YOUR ETERNITY

A highly anticipated adaption from a widely praised manga, and if nothing else, its first episode might be The Best first episode we got this year.

The rest of the series didn’t really manage to capture me as well as the first as it ultimately fell short in its storytelling, sometimes going so far as making me yawn and wanting to fastforward through some of its more dragged out and dialogue-heavy parts.

Still, there’s a great world at play here, and plenty of moments where the show does an extremely good job with tugging on your heartstrings.

Grab some tissues before you watch this.

Go watch the first episode of this even if you’re not planning to commit to the entire series. It’s great on its own, like, short film award-winning kind of good (if it actually was a standalone short film).

FARAWAY PALADIN

Yet another adaptation where I’m caught up with and love the manga, although the anime is adapting the light novel in this case.

The story is good, but the animation quality didn’t quite live up to what I personally had hoped for. That said, the cast is extremely loveable, and you’ll quickly come to care for them once you give it a chance.

It’s essentially another “overpowered isekai protagonist” story as a premise, only this time the our main character Will is born into the care of three undead — a skelton, a mummy, and a ghost.

…and that’s about all I can say without spoiling some twists to the story. I can’t really say that it’s entirely wholesome, but it definitely mostly is.

AQUATOPE OF WHITE SAND

P.A. Works returns with a new original series that has a lot of similar underlying themes as 2017’s Sakura Quest. This time a small aquarium in Okinawa is nearing the point of closure, but Kukuru Misakino, acting director over the summer break and granddaughter to the actual director, is doing everything she can to prevent that from happening.

We do however start off by meeting Fuuka, who spontaneously took a flight down to Okinawa in order to escape the fallout back home after leaving her idol career in Tokyo. As she wanders the beach-side roads she eventually stumbles upon Gama Gama Aquarium, and by chance gets a taste of the magic that resides there.

I will say that the beginning of the second half was incredibly stressful to watch, as we get a taste of unflinching corporate bureaucracy and unquestionable seniority which I personally fully and utterly despise. I had to take a break with something lighter just to bear through it! But of course they just needed some adversity to overcome, which they quickly do.

Aquatope of White Sand is yet another well-executed P.A. Works original that beautifully details both the low and high points of the profession it covers, and a refreshingly realistic series among the fantastical ones we most often get in anime.

TAISHOU MAIDEN FAIRYTALE / TAISHOU OTOME OTOGIBANASHI

Taishou Maiden Fairytale is often incredibly sugar-sweet, but because of its story taking place over 100 years ago there are a few customs in the series that are a bit… outdated, to put it lightly — such as the premise of the show.

17-year-old Tamahiko Shima is disowned by his father after surviving a car crash that ends up killing his mother and permanently crippling his right hand. As a result, Tamahiko is sent away from Tokyo into the countryside in Chiba, where he is to live alone and let the world believe that he is dead.

While living there and wallowing in his own despair, someone else suddenly arrives in the middle of a cold winter night; the cheerful 14-year-old Yuzuki that has been sold off by her family to live with Tamahiko and take care of him, and to one day be his wife.

While the tale that follows is largely one of two kids being cute together, it does go in other directions at times; this isn’t in the “Healing Ones” category for a reason. It doesn’t go dark dark or anything like that, but… it’s just not happy-go-lucky 100% of the time.

THE ONES I HAVEN’T HAD TIME TO WATCH YET

There really have been too many series for me to keep up with… These are the ones that I have on my own backlog; the ones I plan to spend time watching through during the holidays (at least some of them).

They’ve all been overall praised and are supposedly fantastic, but yeah… time.

  • HORIMIYA
    Apparently a great time, and one of the best romantic comedies of the year.
  • QUINTESSENTIAL QUINTUPLETS
    The final season to what is supposedly one of the better harem romcom shows out there. From what I’ve heard it’s a good finale? Haven’t had time to even start the first season yet!
  • ATTACK ON TITAN: THE FINAL SEASON (PART 1)
    It’s the final season of Attack on Titan! Except not really? Still a Part 2 to come. I read the manga instead of watching the anime, so don’t have much to say about the quality of the show, but I hear good things.
  • DR. STONE: STONE WARS
    It’s more Dr Stone. That’s it, really. I’m caught up with the manga here as well, so haven’t cared about keeping up with the anime for this either.
  • TOKYO REVENGERS
    Apparently well-liked, but the first episode didn’t jive with me, and so I haven’t taken the time to continue it. Some time-travel redo-your-life sort of stuff.
  • JOJO PART 6: STONE OCEAN
    Started watching JoJo for the first time just a few weeks ago, so I still have 150-something episodes to get to before I’ll watch Stone Ocean, but apparently it’s very good!
  • KINGDOM S3
    If you‘re interested in this historical epic, you probably love it already.
  • BLUE PERIOD
    Supposedly a somewhat lackluster Netflix adaptation of a beloved manga. Boy that doesn’t concern himself with studies suddenly gets engrossed in traditional painting.
  • NON NON BYORI NONSTOP
    Super cute slice-of-life series about some kids in a rural community continues to be super cute. I’ve only seen season one, so I still have one season + a movie to go through before I reach Nonstop, but from what I hear it’s just more cuteness overload!
  • WORLD TRIGGER S2+S3
    World Trigger is good now? Maybe? S1 is 73 episodes long, and I haven’t dared to climb that hill yet in order to see what S2 and S3 brings.
    Don’t know much about the story beyond it being some sci-fi shounen series.
  • UMA MUSUME: PRETTY DERBY S2
    What I tossed aside as yet another cash-grab mixed media project, this time about racing horses depicted as cute girls, has been described as gripping and beautifully animated?!
    I want to give it a chance just out of sheer curiosity. One day.
  • MORIARTY THE PATRIOT S2
    This is scoring really well from what I’ve seen. I dropped S1 because it only featured typical bishounen interactions and overly dramatic villains which I didn’t have patience for back then. But now I’m reconsidering picking it back up…

THAT WAS 2021!

To recap the categories and titles, because I know a lot of you like summarized point lists that are easier to copy-paste, below you’ll find them all listed without descriptions as well. In each category I’ve put which ones I’d generally recommend in italics except for the Must Watch category, since all of those are fantastic.

  • Must Watch:
    ODDTAXI
    Yuru Camp S2
    Zombieland Saga: Revenge
    Komi Can’t Communicate
    Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon S2
    Jujutsu Kaisen
    Fruits Basket: The Final
    Link Click
  • The Great Ones That Are Still Airing:
    Ranking Of Kings
    86
  • Movies and Shorts:
    Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time
    Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop
    Star Wars: Visions
    Artiswitch
    Mini Dragon
    The Way of the House Husband
  • The Big Continuations:
    Re:Zero S2
    That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime S2
    Nomad: Megalo Box 2
    Iruma-kun S2
    My Hero Academia S5
    Beastars S2
  • The Healing Ones:
    Super Cub
    Kiyo In Kyoto
    The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent
  • The Scary and/or Absurd:
    Otherside Picnic
    Mieruko-chan
    Sonny Boy
    Shadows House
    Godzilla Singular Point
  • Vampires. So many vampires:
    Mars Red
    The Case Study Of Vanitas
    Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
    The Vampire Dies In No Time
  • Comedies:
    Uramichi Oniisan
    Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro
    My Senpai Is Annoying
    Hamefura S2
    Jahy-sama Won’t Be Discouraged
  • Music and Theatrics:
    Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song
    Takt Op. Destiny
    These Snow White Notes
    Selection Project
    Kageki Shoujo!!
  • The Good (aka the unsorted ones):
    The Heike Story
    Shin No Nakama
    Sk8
    SSSS.Dynazenon
    To Your Eternity
    Faraway Paladin
    Aquatope Of White Sand
    Taishou Maiden Fairytale

All these are series I either loved myself, or have heard others loving over the past year. There are actually even more series that I liked which didn’t make this list, but I had to cut it off somewhere…

As I said at the start, we’ve really been presented with more great anime in 2021 than any one person could ever hope to keep up with, but that also means more variety and more chances to find that one thing that stands out for you.

I hope this was useful, and if you do end up watching some of these please share what you think of them, and reach out if you feel like I’ve missed out on any particular series of the year!

Speaking of series I‘ve “missed”…

Throughout reading this, some of you might have been wondering why one or two widely popular series aren’t listed…

I’d recommend a lot of you to stop reading here as the following honestly goes into some nasty stuff, but if you do want to know why they’re not elsewhere I figured I might as well adress it in my list about:

THE PROBLEM CHILDREN

TW: Sexual abuse, loli culture, suicide, and more.

These series are all problematic but for widely different reasons; some worse than others.

The first two are praised in general, but I cannot with good conscience recommend them without some serious content warnings beforehand.

The latter two are sad examples of shows with great potential not so much “not sticking the landing”, more “felt like it had somewhere to go, but then right as it was about to land said ‘f**k it’ and tried landing on its neck instead.

At least three of these series will, despite this, probably end up in some or a lot of anime-of-the-year lists, and I wanted to take a moment to explain why I can’t give them the same “Must Watch” praise.

MUSHOKU TENSEI

When we had just seen the start of the show in early 2021, I hadn’t yet fully realized how bad things would be.

I wanted to love this one. Parts of it, I still kind of do. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most visually stunning anime we’ve gotten this year, if not in years.

But it has one particularly big problem:

The MC is a pedophile.

It baffles me how almost all other reviews and mentions of this show seem to gloss over this. Maybe people are too desensitized over the prevalent but nonetheless disgusting loli culture that is deeply rooted in a lot of anime, but I can’t thoughtlessly enjoy and praise this show’s other aspects because of it.

Long story short because I don’t really want to write about this; The MC, who is reborn into baby boy’s body after being Isekai’d but speaks as his almost-40 mental self whenever we hear his thoughts, not only creepily lust over women in general, but underaged-looking women and girls in particular (an explicitly stated preference). And somehow this is something nobody ever brings up when discussing the show, meaning a lot of people start watching it without knowing it’s there, and I don’t want to do that to those of you reading this.

I started reading the manga half a year or so before the anime started, and I still enjoy reading that! The MC is creepy still there, sure, but they’re adding way more focus on the worst parts in the anime adaptation, supposedly being more faithful to what the original light novel had.

In the manga, the inner voice is this disembodied text that one can interpret as the reborn self, and any disgusting section is contained to a panel or two, and you can just flip the page and its over; the next story beat starts instead.

In the anime, they keep focusing on those moments, giving pause and attention to gratuitous camera angles, and having the his older self narrate things in disgusting detail.

I’m not trying to argue that the show isn’t visually stunning, or that there’s anything wrong with the animators’ skills.

Yes, the magic and animation is beautiful.
Yes, the story arcs are generally interesting and it’s a rich, detailed world.
Yes, the characters in the world also think the MC is a creep all the time and they try to use that as plot device here and there.

But the MC is still a goddamn pedophile and it’s not okay at all. And I won’t put in any other category as a result.

THE IDATEN DEITIES KNOW ONLY PEACE

This one is much less talked about, but it had a lot going for it. A very loose and interesting style, funny moments and characters.

Oh wow, I understand why this has been so hyped by-OH MY GOD WTAF ARE THEY DOING”
- Our collective reaction when me and some friends were wrapping up the first episode in our summer seasonal marathon this year.

It very clearly tries to bring home the idea that these gods are so far above humans that they don’t even share our sense of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or would even consider us anything other than another animal, and so the series uses extremes in order to villainize the evil gods’ underlings, aka definitely-not-just-actually-Nazis. Which could be fine if done right, but to cheerful music and graphically showcasing it front-and-center is not doing it right.

It again has great visuals (although of a different style), and one of the most visually striking OPs this year, but I cannot with good conscience throw it up as a Must Watch, or even as a “Good” anime.

THE PROMISED NEVERLAND SEASON 2

I’m going to assume that you might not have followed the conversations around the second season, and might only have heard how many thought the first season was great, in a horror/thriller kind of way.

Apparently the second season feels extremely rushed, and ruins many of the things that made the first season great. So much so, in fact, that the current MAL score for S2 sits at a 5.43, whereas the first season has a 8.57.

I (thankfully?) never watched season 1 myself, so I don’t fully know what actually happens in this second and final season, but yeah, you might want to skip this one, simply because it’s bad. Read the manga instead.

WONDER EGG PRIORITY

Never before had I been so disappointed in a finale. I have actually been since (never make the mistake of watching the 90’s anime Nadia: Secret of Blue Water like me and some friends decided to do), but that’s beside the point.

The majority of Wonder Egg Priority centers around a visually stunning dreamscape, and the series tries (but often fails) to deal with heavy subjects related to young girls taking their own lives.

The main show with its 12 episodes does stumble a little bit, especially in its choice of story sometimes, but it is a audiovisual feast that you want to keep watching to appreciate the craftmanship. The quality is honestly consistently on a level otherwise seen only in feature films.

It is the “13th” episode, a special episode meant to conclude the main story presented in the show, that is the biggest issue for when deciding whether or not to recommend this. Without going into massive detail as frankly I’d surprised if you’re even still reading at this point, the special episode was seemingly riddled with production issues, and presented a non-ending that backtracks most of the progress our main characters goes through in the 12 episodes leading up to it. It also tries to over-explain this weird metaphysical ride we’ve been a part of, and trips over itself multiple times while doing so. Even beyond that, the quality of the animation and visuals that was the highlight of the series was now replaced with seemingly rushed and rough cuts throughout. Whatever soul the series had simply got squandered in the special episode. And don’t get me started on how 20+ of the ”fully original” 50 minutes in the special was essentially a clip show from the main series.

All of that is a shame, because had it stuck its landing even somewhat, then the combination of great visuals, an astounding soundtrack, and at least decent story would’ve skyrocketed it into a definitive Must Watch of the year. Alas, it did not, and I cannot recommend even starting it as a result.

Much like the titular eggs themselves, the series starts off small and mysterious, but after growing bigger and bigger and building suspence towards a promise of a big surprise, it suddenly pops at the end, leaving behind not much more than a big mess on the floor.

And with that, I’m done for real.

Go enjoy some actually good anime instead, and I’ll see you here in February 2022 for the Winter Seasonal Marathon summary!

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