It’s that time of the year again where every single anime youtuber makes their review of the previous year. I used to look forward so much to Gigguk’s video each year, then forgetting about it because he’s always late, only to be pleasantly surprised when the video did show up. I figured I would compile a list for myself as well, in the hopes of having something to recommend to friends when they’re looking for something to watch. For this list I will only include anime that finished airing in 2021, so Ousama Ranking unfortunately won’t make this list, since it hasn’t finished yet. It would be number one otherwise. On the flipside, although Jujutsu Kaisen started airing in 2020, it finished in early 2021, so it does count for this list. I’m also not counting sequels, if you’ve seen the first season of most of the sequels this year, you’ve probably watched the later seasons too if you liked it. So no Yuru Camp, Dr. Stone, Tensura, Attack on Titan etc. With all of that out of the way, here are my ten favorite anime of 2021, in no particular order. As always, these reviews contain minor spoilers for each show, read at your own discretion.
Easily one of the biggest shows to come out of late 2020, early 2021 and a good place to start as I think this is the most universally liked show on this list. A lot of the shows in here aren’t bombshell mainstream successes as much as Jujutsu Kaisen was, but more reasonably popular shows that I personally liked a lot. Jujutsu Kaisen follows Itadori Yuuji, who ends up mingling with the occult a bit more than he would have liked. Accidentally swallowing one of Sukuna’s fingers he becomes a host for the extremely powerful demon. In an effort to stay in control of his own body he ends up going to Jujutsu tech, where similarly skilled people are learning as well. Jujutsu Kaisen at its core is a well rounded shonen anime with fun characters and an interesting plot progression. It doesn’t pull any punches and is a joy to watch from start to finish. I have yet to read the manga, but if the quality keeps up like the first season of the anime did, it’ll surely be one to remember.
I’ve been killing slimes for 300 years and maxed out my level
The title really says a lot for this one. Azusa died of overwork in our world, and after she died she was teleported to a quaint mountain home on the outskirts of a small village in a fantasy world. She then decides to spend the next 300 years just relaxing and killing a couple of slimes every day. Because she’s immortal, she ends up going a little bit overboard and levels up until she is level 99, the highest level anyone can be. When this is revealed at a local adventurers guild, challengers start slowly appearing.
This show is very calm and relaxing to watch and has a lot of heart. I felt like it had really fun characters and even the small story arcs were fun. There was next to no drama, no difficult moments, just some characters living their best lives. This show is perfect when you’re winding down from a long day at work.
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan
Imagine this, you’re in your late 20s/early 30s. You’re not quite in the place in life where you wanted to be, but you’re getting by. You have a job, but it’s not your dream job by any means. You’re single and your friends are a mis-matched group of coworkers. Your boss has no regard for his employees and often runs you ragged. If you’re like me and this sounds almost painfully familiar, then Uramichi Oniisan will definitely hit home. Uramichi works as a Children’s TV host. Think Steve from Blue’s Clues but as a gymnast. He does a good job as well, but his life is just a bundle of misery and pain. Uramichi just wants the world to leave him alone as he is miserable in peace. The anime follows his life and that of his coworkers as they get through their day to day. Uramichi Oniisan is painfully relatable, funny, introspective and even heartfelt at times. The characters are well written and with 13 episodes the show doesn’t overstay its welcome. And if all of that isn’t enough, the titular Uramichi is voiced by the one and only Hiroshi Kamiya (Trafalgar Law, Araragi Koyomi, Yato, Izaya etc.)
So I’m a spider, so what?
Kumo desu ga follows the story of Kumoko, who is teleported to a strange world as a spider monster. Unbeknownst to her, the rest of the class has also been teleported to this world, but they’ve done so as mainly humans and humanoid characters. Meanwhile Kumoko suffers underground as she fights the scary underbelly of the world in an attempt to survive and grow stronger. This anime didn’t really get me invested until later on in the story. Kumoko’s story is fun in a way, but it gets a bit repetitive. I found myself more interested in the humans and as the story focused more on them, I found myself enjoying it a lot more. When it really got me was later in the story, where Kumoko becomes more involved with the plot. There seems to be a lot going on in this show and it’s definitely made as an advertisement for the source material, which I believe is a web novel turned into a light novel.
This show does have some CG that I didn’t think looked good at all. Some of the fight scenes did look good, but there were some moments that made me chuckle at how silly things looked. All in all it was a very enjoyable show and it definitely earned its spot on this list.
I recently talked about this show in one of my quick reviews, so there isn’t much I haven’t already said. Blue Period is a great drama show about Yatora, who decides very suddenly to become an art student. He has enough talent that with his drive he’s able to become better very quickly. The story focuses on his relationships with the people around him as much as on the progression of art itself. It has some very well written side characters and my favorite thing about this show is how his friends are super supportive. Early on they come across as a bunch of bros who just like to get drunk together, but when push comes to shove they immediately support Yatora’s efforts, as well as those of another in their friend group. This show hits right in the feelings when it wants to and as someone who thinks art is very important I can’t recommend it more highly.
Komi can’t communicate
As fun and comedic as this show is, I can’t help but feel that Komi is painfully relatable at times. Komi-san is a beautiful girl who everyone wants to be close friends with, but Komi has a communication disorder that makes it near impossible to speak. Watching her order a coffee, talking to new classmates or interacting with strangers makes me feel both warm inside yet at the same time reflects a side of my own personality that I don’t like to be confronted with. It took me 2 or 3 episodes to get invested in this show, but once I did there was no going back. The supporting cast is mostly fun, although I think Yamai is definitely on a list somewhere as she is a psychopath. Tadano is great and one of my favorite main characters in a while. His and Komi’s interactions are adorable and I’m happy that this is getting a second season.
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
Rudeus Greyrat is a strange kid. Mainly because he has the mind of a thirty-something year old from earth. Reborn as the son of two adventurers in a fantasy world, he quickly finds out he is gifted with magic and becomes a very powerful kid. Unfortunately his fears of leaving the house still haunt him from his previous life. As the story continues, Rudeus and his cousin, Eris, are teleported away from their hometown to a strange land, and that is where the story really picks up.
To be perfectly honest with you, I did not like early Mushoku Tensei. The only reason I kept watching was because the animation and art were very good and the worldbuilding looked solid. As the show went on, I started being more interested, but it still had its issues. This show really raised the question about what your age is when you reincarnate. Rudeus is a child, sure, but the person inside his mind is not. He also does a lot of sexual assault, including sexual assault of minors which is worse depending on what age you view Rudeus to be. Outside of this show, I think discussing the mental strain of being teleported or reincarnated in a strange world is a very interesting topic that I hope to visit properly in a story I’m currently writing and publishing on this blog soon. But enough about that, Mushoku Tensei creates a beautifully flawed world where high stakes make you crave a new episode each week, despite its flaws.
The aquatope on white sand
The first half of aquatope on the white sand plays out as a fairly generic slice of life drama. Fuuka is tired of the idol life and flees to a small town near the ocean. There she meets Kukuru, and starts to work at Tingaara, the local aquarium. It’s a bit rundown, but it’s got a lot of heart. Kukuru is the interim director and her grandfather is the one who made the aquarium big and successful. Alongside Kukuru and several of the other coworkers they try their best to save the aquarium from shutting down. And it’s a heartwarming story about how they come together and beat the odds that are stacked against them. The aquarium gets revitalized and they manage to save it. Except that’s not what happens.
Even though Kukuru tries her very best, the aquarium is eventually shut down permanently. Fuuka moves back to the big city and nothing gets resolved in the way they wanted it to.
But then things pick up again. Kukuru gets a new job in a different aquarium, and although there are a fair share of hardships, it really shows that even though life doesn’t always go the way you planned it to go, that doesn’t mean you can’t rebound and find a new path. I loved the realistic take on a situation like this as opposed to the fairy tale success story where everything gets perfectly resolved. Life isn’t always fair, and aquatope acknowledges that. People’s paths converge and go their separate ways again, then sometimes they come back again. It’s a flawed story with flawed characters, but it feels extremely real and that is why it got me hooked completely.
Watanaba Sarasa is a girl who likes to dream big. She wants to be on the center stage of the Takarazuka revue, a famous all-women theater. So she applies to, and gets into the prestigious Kouka Kageki high school. Alongside Sarasa is Narata Ai, a former idol with a troubled background. Together they grow as people and actresses as they go through the grueling lessons at Kouka and make friends along the way. That description does it some justice, but where this show shines is in its portrayal of the characters mental health problems. These can range from very serious topics to more melancholic things. The show takes its time to properly explore this themes which makes it brutally honest when you watch it. If you struggle watching people deal with serious issues then this might not be the show for you, but I personally enjoyed every single second of it, and even though I’m not putting this list of 10 shows in order, this one would definitely be in the top 3, if not number 1.
And last, but certainly not least, is Horimiya. I hadn’t heard of Horimiya at all before this anime aired, but apparently the manga is one of the most highly rated manga out there, and for good reason it seems. I will admit that the premise for this show is kind of dumb, but it’s not what keeps the plot going to it’s not an issue.
Kyouko is a model student at school but she has a deep dark secret. At home she is, wait for it, very responsible and does the chores. That’s it, that’s her secret. If you think that’s underwhelming then we’re in agreement. At least Izumi has tattoos and piercings to hide, which are very much frowned upon. They come across each other outside of school and slowly become friends because they know each other’s secrets. Again, that’s Kyouko doing the chores at home. The premise is so silly, but it doesn’t take away from the story at all. I think a lot of it is summaries overselling how much it does for the story. This is a very character driven romance story and in my opinion one of the better written high school romance shows. I’d put it up there with the likes of Toradora. The art is nice, the music feels nostalgic and the characters are all likable in their own way. It makes sense that the manga is very popular and I recommend giving the show a watch as well.
And that’s my list. 10 shows I watched in 2021 that I recommend. 2021 saw a ton of sequels, like I mentioned before, and I watched a lot of those while skimping out on new shows. Please, do recommend some shows I’ve missed last year. I want to go back and watch some of them this year, if I find the time. There’s a lot of good anime coming up this year too, and I’ve just started watching Urusei Yatsura, which is a very old anime that’s getting a new adaptation this year. I’m mainly watching it for Lum, the main girl, because I’ve seen her a lot throughout the years in art and amvs, so it’s gotten me curious. And it’s a nice change of pace to watch something old and dated.
I hope this list helps you pick out some shows you might have missed and please drop a like if you found it helpful. Thanks for reading.