12 best anime of 2021 so far
The summertime anime season remains in full speed, with amazing brand-new programs like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon House maid S and One-Punch Guy director Shingo Natsume’s brand-new initial series Sonny Kid. With the outright deluge of remarkable and amazing brand-new anime putting out this year, it’s sensible that a few of the year’s finest may have slipped off your radar. To that end, we here at Polygon HQ put our heads together to develop a list of a few of the very best anime to come out this year up until now.
From significant titles like My Hero Academic Community and Megalobox 2 Wanderer to more specific niche titles like Odd Taxi, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby, and Pui Pui MolCar, here are 12 of the very best anime series to air up until now in 2021. Time to play capture up.
Beastars (Season 2)
Beastars informs the story of a wolf who wishes to make love with a bunny, however concerns he will feast on stated bunny. I believe it’s a metaphor for the age of puberty. Though it might be a cringey, misdirected expedition of race. Possibly it’s holding a magnifying glass to sexual violence on school. Or maybe it’s a maturing story about a generation of youths detached from their moms and dads by quickly altering standards. Honestly, I’ve stopped appreciating what it’s about.
I understand this is gauche among critics, however for me, Beastars works when I gave up attempting to make a one-to-one connection in between our world and its city of randy teenage predators and herbivores. I delight in the program best when I take its internal reasoning by itself terms. Because method, Beastars resembles Romeo and Juliet. An attractive, violent, and frequently discouraging tale of star-crossed fans kept apart by society. And like the works of Shakespeare, Beastars can be bent into whatever else you desire it to be. —Chris Plante
Beastars season 1 and 2 are offered to stream on Netflix.
Fruits Basket: The Final
Fruits Basket draws audiences in with the guarantee of an adorable story about a household that becomes animals when they’re hugged, then definitely deactivates with considerable amounts of generational injury. In the last season, all of this begins to culminate, as adventurous orphan Tohru Honda attempts to break menstruation binding the Sohma household to imperious household head Akito. However since this is Fruits Basket, everybody has their own share of injury, Akito consisted of. The emotional final season of Fruits Basket reveals that all is not what it seems when it comes to Akito. When the big moment happens, it’s a sweeping emotional catharsis for everybody. Have tissues on hand. —Petrana Radulovic
Fruits Basket: The Final is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Horimiya, a show whose namesake comes from combining the names of its two central love interests, Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura, is about as darling as you’d expect a show named after its two lovers to be.
The show follows Hori, a responsible big sister and confident student with friends, and her budding romance with Miyamura, a shy and quiet loner with a secret edgy look outside of highschool. (We learn he has tattoos and piercings!) In other shojo, it’s not uncommon for a story to take entire seasons for the love interests to hold hands, and might not even show a kiss. In Horimiya, we see them fall for each other in a matter of episodes. This pace allows the debut season of the show to quickly move away from showing just Hori and Miyamura’s relationship, and gives us space to learn about all the other people in their life. Overtime, we see the once lonely Miyamura develop a loving and supportive community around him.
Horimiya doesn’t do anything remarkable or groundbreaking; It’s just really pleasant to watch. The characters shy away from intense conflict, and embrace idyllic friendships that overcome conflict without a whole lot of development. Sure, there isn’t some sort of big, satisfying resolution like there is in a show like Fruits Basket, but you are also spared the tears. What’s more is that you really don’t have to sink all that much time into, with a complete story starting and coming to a close after just one season. Fun and light, Horimiya was just a rephrasing summer snack of a watch for me. —Ana Diaz
Horimiya is available to stream on Hulu and Funimation.
Jujutsu Kaisen was the breakout anime success of 2020 and continued strong in 2021. The story follows the young Yuji Itadori, a good-hearted school boy who one day eats an actual finger, which served as a vessel for a powerful demon called Sukuna. After consuming the finger, Itadori gets taken in by the questionable, but powerful mentor Gojo Satoru, who assembles a Naruto-like cast of three central characters who work together to defeat the monsters known as curses in their world.
Jujutsu Kaisen is a show that plays with the tropes of shonen anime. Whereas other shows like it tend to focus on super-human protagonists who magically power up just when the going gets rough, Jujutsu Kaisen starts with Itadori’s own weakness and him begging for the demon inside to save him.
The show starts off a bit slow, but pays off to those who spend just a little more time with it. The characters — and its women especially — are presented with care, and the three main characters develop an endearing dynamic reminiscent of siblings who like to pick on each other. Sticking around will show some of Studio Mappa’s finest work, as later fight sequences are some of the best animation to come from the studio yet. Basically, Jujutsu Kaisen is the perfect show for long-time shonen fans who are looking for something that isn’t afraid to venture off the well-trodden paths of its predecessors and conjure up something a little bit darker, a bit stranger. —AD
Jujutsu Kaisen is available to stream on Crunchyroll and HBO Max.
Laid-back Camp (Season 2)
Possibly dubbed the most comfy anime in the last decade, Laid-back Camp’s second season delivers as a perfect follow up to its first. Rin still loves camping by herself, but she slowly continues to open up to her new gang of friends at her school’s camping club.
It’s still a very good, comfy slice-of-life anime about girls going camping. It sticks to its roots as a semi-educational show, and this season gives fun looks into some cool areas of Japan. —Julia Lee
Laid-back Camp season 2 is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Megalobox 2: Nomad
The second season of Megalobox is a far darker, somber, and more melancholic underdog story than the devil may care attitude of the first season. Set several years after his victory at Megalonia, the champion fighter known as “Gearless”Joe is a far cry from when we last saw him; addicted to painkillers, fighting anonymous cage bouts for chump change and,most distressingly, alone. Nomad is a worthy successor to the tremendous action and character-driven drama of the first season; a rousing story of a champion’s precipitous fall from grace and subsequent revival into a fighter far stronger and more determined than ever before. —Toussaint Egan
Megalobox 2: Nomad is available to stream on Funimation.
My Hero Academia (Season 5)
Studio Bones’ breakout superhero action drama returned for its fifth season as the students of UA High school were thrust into ever more precarious danger with greater stakes. My Hero Academia season 5 deals heavily in Endeavor’s recovery following his confrontation with the super-powered Nomu at the end of last season, the hero Hawks working undercover to take down the League of Villains from the inside, and Deku manifesting a new aspect of his quirk One for All as he delves deeper into the history of his predecessors and their connection to the villainous All for One. —TE
My Hero Academia season 5 is available to stream on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation.
Odd Taxi is, well, odd. A slice-of-life mystery drama centered on Odokawa, a 40-something year old taxi driver who also happens to be a walrus in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, who may or may not be implicated in the disappearance of a missing girl. Despite how dire that initial premise may sound, the anime as a whole is an expert blend of black comedy and irreverent banter; a series whose focus rotates through a cast of eccentric, offbeat, and above all achingly human characters whose lives intersect Odokawa’s own in search of their heart’s desire, whether it be the semblance of true love or just trying to go viral on social media. Odd Taxi is a series you must absolutely make the time to watch and a strong contender for 2021’s most unique and underrated anime. —TE
Odd Taxi is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Pui Pui MolCar
Pui Pui Molcar is one of the weirdest and funniest comedy anime to come out in 2021. A stop-motion anime short series set in a metropolis populated by gigantic, fuzzy guinea pigs with wheels for feet, the show consists of a series of skits following the Molcars on various misadventures. From traffic jams to impromptu bank heists, rescuing cats or escaping a zombie apocalypse, Pui Pui Molcar is bursting with as much creativity as it is genuine laughs. With each episode running at just under or around eight minutes, it’s a perfectly snack-sized, low commitment anime that might make for a decent change of pace if you’re looking for something fun to watch or if you’re tired of your kid constantly watching Cocomelon. —TE
Pui Pui Molcar is available to stream on Netflix.
Sk8 The Infinity
The hard-working skateboarder Reki loves the S races — secret skateboarding races that take place at night. These races are filled with danger, and some of the most iconic underground skateboarders settle their beef (yes, that’s the term the anime uses) in S. Canadian transfer student Langa is more into snowboarding, but with the help of Reki, he starts skating and participating in S. Conflict arises as the creator of S is more devilish than he appears, and Langa begins to outperform Reki.
Sk8 is special because its characters make it special. With its large cast of great characters (Cherry stans, unite!) and interesting backstories, it’s the perfect short sports anime to satisfy any itch you may have in 12 episodes. —JL
SK8 the Infinity is offered to stream on Funimation.
SSSS.Gridman was one of 2018’s most exciting premieres, reviving one of Tsuburaya Productions’ neglected franchises into a brilliant animated love letter to all things tokusatsu. SSSS.Dynazenon is a brilliant continuation of the original series, shifting focus to another intrepid team of young heroes led by a mysterious man called Gauma who must band together to fight an onslaught of devastating kaiju through the combined may of the transforming mecha known as Dynazenon. The series’ explicit connections to the Gridman universe are loose but tantalizing, opening up a slew of exciting possibilities for shared adventures in future while establishing its own tone and stakes apart from its predecessor.
SSSS.Dynazenon ranks as one of the best anime that Trigger has produced to date; a rolicking action mecha series with explosive battles, beautiful animation, and richly developed characters. —TE
SSSS.Dynazenon is available to stream on Funimation.
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby (Season 2)
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby’s second season puts a heart-racing anime twist on the real story of the Japanese racehorse, Tokai Teio. She’s a hard working horse girl who wants to be as fast as her mentor, Symboli Rudolf. Teio is a shoe-in for winning the triple crown, but an unexpected injury trips her up, making things hard for her.
With added drama and a smattering of very well-known voice actresses, Uma Musume’s creators manage to pull off an interesting feat: they actually make you actually care about the horses. I learned so much about real life Japanese racehorses watching this, and some of the episodes had me bawling while I cheered on Teio. They got me good. —JL
Uma Musume: Pretty Derby season 2 is offered to stream on Crunchyroll.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.