What does a great anime do? We remember it lot after it has finished airing, and we reminisce over the strong feelings they elicited. Whether it was a comfy atmosphere to sit back and relax to, or a strong feeling of empathy for the protagonists, it was something that made us feel something deep. I watch anime for all sorts of reasons, chief among them to just have a good time at the end of the day. This may sometimes just be a simple anime that follows a generic formula, but that may just be the anime someone needs. So here’s my top 10 anime of 2021 and some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
The Aquatope on White Sand
Forget about all the crying about yuri bait and let’s take a couple steps back. I think some of the community (myself included) forgot to appreciate a good anime for what it is. This anime was never primarily about a what if relationship between the protagonists. It was, quite literally, in the poster itself. “The two girls met in the ruins of damaged dream”.
The message the show wanted to push was that Kukuru had lost her dream and was disillusioned for much of the show, having lost her first aquarium and pushed into a desk job that she hated. But she eventually rediscovered the spark and passion that she had been fighting for all along. Fuuka also went through a similar process, only that she switched her careers upon finding her true calling in marine aquariums. The 2nd cour brought it full circle; the protagonists having lost their dreams in the 1st cour but refinding and repairing their dreams later. It’s a grand journey of loss and rediscovery of oneself, that does take time to develop but the payoff is worth it. I guess fans can’t be satisfied; either an anime is too short and doesn’t develop the story, or it’s too long and drags on for no good reason. Aquatope may not have been perfect, but I respect it for its message and storytelling.
The Great Jahy Sama Will Not be Defeated!
A reincarnated demon into the real world with no money and is broke. This anime was just the right amount of slap stick comedy and surprising comfiness as the entire cast was lovable and cute. It certainly helped that Jahy’s seiyuu is Satania from Gabriel Dropout, which was so perfect, being another poor bullied demon.
Drugstore in Another World
Another comfy anime, I just turned my brain off and enjoyed it for what it was. A slice of life fantasy about running a pharmacy in the boonies. It was surprisingly wholesome and funny, and the art style was so cute!
Meikyuu Black Company
This was unexpectedly enjoyable, as the entire cast was just a bunch of greedy people who knew they weren’t heroes. Another fantasy anime that I just didn’t try to think too hard and enjoyed the comedy, as the protagonist was just the biggest likable asshole who pulled off scheme after scheme, and still got his karmic justice.
Now onto the Top 10 Anime of 2021.
#10 Wonder Egg Priority
I can taste the salt; Why did I pick Wonder Egg as among the top 10 anime of 2021?!? First, let’s forget the “special” ever happened. Forget about the recap. Forget about the weird plotline about alternate universes.
When I first watched this anime all the way back in January, only two episodes were out. I had no prior plans to pick up this anime, but heard that it was a must see from social media. So I gave it a shot. And was absolutely blown away from those two episodes alone.
The visuals and character design are fantastic. Objectively they are just so good. The art in each episode are mesmerizing, for each background and “monster” the characters fight. I don’t think many can disagree on that.
For the premise and story, it had an extremely strong start, and I would argue throughout the entire season. The flaw was that it bit off more than it could chew, but I’m here to gush not roast. Each episode was a self contained plot about one heroines helping a girl that committed suicide, to confront their demons to pass onto the afterlife peacefully. Each and every time, I was so engrossed and invested in every single girl’s story. Cloverworks did a great job in making us care and really WANT them to succeed.
Now for the main characters, they had great chemistry and the slice of life scenes were always a treat to watch. The development and backstory for each one were tear jerkers and hit real deep. I think if the show just threw out the AI plotline and just completely focused on the rehabilitation of the main cast, it would have been even better. All in all, I like to remember Wonder Egg for its great points, despite its flaws.
#9 Mushoku Tensei
Isekai is a genre that will never go away, and it’s hard to distinguish the real gems from the fodder. Mushoku Tensei is one of those gems. One of the things I appreciate about this anime is that it’s not afraid to pull its punches. It will discuss and bring up topics that are controversial and uncomfortable. But the beauty in that is that Mushoku Tensei is a story about a Neet protagonist who is HUMAN. He’s not the generic handsome isekai protagonist. He was a loser in his past life, and he desperately tries to forget his past in his new life, where he has everything now. His character journey is a sight to see, as he slowly becomes everything that he wasn’t in his past life.
Secondly, the animation and art is excellent. Like, really good. You can tell the studio really put passion into this adaptation, with so much fine details in the most mundane of activities that the characters do.
Many isekais are about a hero who has to save the world. This isn’t it. It’s about Rudeus who’s just living in this crazy world, and we are seeing this wondrous world through his eyes. He’s not out to be a hero or anything special. He’s here to care about his friends and family, and go on adventures. And it is done masterfully.
#8 Selection Project
The idol genre is saturated with a lot of basic garbage every year, just like the isekai genre. Selection Project only pushed the idol genre to new heights. Every performance and song slapped hard, and the animation was impressive. A great blend of 2d and CG, the performances were outstanding, on par or maybe even surpassing that of the original Idolmaster.
The characters weren’t shallow either. Our main protagonist, Suzune, had the most spotlight out of the 9 idols, who struggled throughout the entire show with her heart condition. And to make matters more crazy, who had her donated heart from another of the idol’s dead sister. Selection Project is not without its drama, but it has its place.
Selection Project may not be the best idol anime, but its performances and dramatic storyline was definitely enjoyable.
#7 Yuru Camp Season 2
The definition of comfy anime, Yuru Camp season 2 surpassed its first season in the feeling of being a couch potato for its viewers. Its formula of cute girls going camping and eating good food heals the soul, especially in the uncertain times of the pandemic.
The OP and ED were fire as usual, bringing back the original singers from the 1st season’s OP and ED. This anime is a prime reason that you don’t need a story to be a great anime. Sometimes you just gotta wind back and relax to the calm ambience of peak CGDCT camping.
#6 Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Season 2
Long anticipated sequel to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, the sequel did not disappoint. The animation got even better and the craziness was at all time high levels. We saw the deepening of existing relationships between characters, and I especially liked the backstory and mending of the friendship between Elma and Tohru. I’m not ashamed to have shed a couple tears during their fight when Elma finally laid it all abre to Tohru and wanted to be pals again like in the past.
The inclusion of Ilulu was a welcome addition, as she fit in right with the whacky cast. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid does really well with mixing humor and emotional backstories, it’s a great juxtaposition of laughter and crying.
KyoAni really knocked it out of the park with this sequel, its animation is lightning in a bottle, like the fight scenes alone give Ufotable a run for their money. Personally, I’m looking forward to a potential season 3 or a movie, this series deserves all the praise and love it gets for being a fantastic fantasy slice of life series.
#5 Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
This was under the radar sleeper hit of the Fall season for me. A simple premise of a vampire girl being the first person in space hit well above its weight. It was an engrossing story of shared dreams of going to space, racial discrimination, and a sweet love story all in one. Lev and Irina’s cute relationship that developed from mere strangers to basically lovers who shared the same passions of going to space, had me rooting for them the entire time. They really carried the story, as their relationship also developed them as characters, as they became each others’ biggest supporters. Lev saw past the prejudices behind vampires and saw an ordinary girl in Irina, and Irina saw past her hatred of humanity and saw an equally passionate fellow cosmonaut who didn’t care about her vampire heritage.
This anime is just a great story about going to space, and deserves its ranking for Lev x Irina alone.
#4 The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace
The biggest crime in history is that this anime was too short and ended off on a cliffhanger. It’s hard to describe what this anime is about, but all I remember was being on the edge of my seat every week for the next episode. It’s a surprisingly dark anime, covered by the bright whacky colors and seriously underrated animation by Mappa. The main characters are Idaten, essentially apathetic Gods, who live in an era of peace, hence the title. The demons of the old times are all dead, only to resurface as human-like beings. A new war starts between the new Idaten and demons, as they simply cannot co-exist. That’s the best premise I can give, and the worst premise I can give that simply does not do it justice.
The characters are simple and straightforward, but the worldbuilding and lore gets deeper each episode. The origins of the Idaten, is there a way for Idaten and demons to co-exist, are all demons truly evil, and just so much more that I can’t explain in this post. As one reddit post recommended, it’s better to just watch then try to explain its greatness. The OP and the fight scenes are outstanding by themselves. This anime is why I try my best to go in blind when watching.
#3 I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level
Now we are getting into the top 3 anime of 2021. It was a fierce neck and neck fight that could go either way. Slime 300 is what I call the peak of CGDCT anime. Cute waifus, slice of life, and a varied cast in a fantasy setting. Now is Slime 300 a masterpiece? No. But who said it had to be? It is an immensely enjoyable anime that one could just sit back and watch. You don’t have to be emotionally invested. There’s no deep plot or surprise twist. It’s just…a reincarnated immortal witch hanging out with her adopted family and friends in a fantasy world with shenanigans. And that’s all it needed to be. Here’s to Laika, the best red dragon waifu anyone could ask for.
#2 Zombieland Saga Revenge
I remember seeing season 1 of Zombieland Saga all the way back in January 2019. I went into it blind, thinking it was a post apocalypse zombie anime. I was proven so wrong. This anime holds a special place in my heart for introducing me into the idol genre. I was always turned off by the genre, but Zombieland sneakily got me into it by NOT advertising itself as an idol anime. By the time I realized it was an idol anime, I was already singing along to the performances.
The 1st season was a masterpiece. The 2nd season sent me into orbit. It surpassed the original, which I was pleasantly surprised by since the 1st season had ended off kind of definitely. It really came full circle with the story, developing all the characters even more and putting them through even more perils as zombie idols. It brought a tear to my eye just how far our favorite characters came, and we STILL have a movie to look forward to. A well deserved second place.
Now…drumroll for the top anime of 2021…
#1 Love Live Superstar
Love live is a juggernaut franchise, and some fear that maybe this is the generation that it’s run its course. Maybe idol fatigue is a real thing. Trust me, it isn’t. Because I believe Love Live Superstar is the strongest entry in the entire franchise. The protagonist Kanon is the most interesting and well developed love live protagonist by far, and that’s not even including the other four girls either. Every one of them is a great character and truly the epitome of what a school idol is. To bring smiles to fans everywhere.
Every song, every performance, and every episode was always a delight. Despite the tried plotline of saving the school, it was a small after note compared to everything else. I liked that it was only 5 characters instead of the standard 9, because we were able to relate to each one on a deeper level rather than the shallowness we get over too many characters. Love Live Superstar is my personal rank 1 anime of 2021, and here’s to any future Love Live installments.
And that’s my personal rankings for 2021. It was a great year for anime, and I can’t wait for 2022’s anime.