Top 20 Anime of 2021
Top 20 Anime of 2021

Top 20 Anime of 2021

VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman
Needless to say, anime in 2021 had plenty of bangers! Join Ashley as we count down our extended picks for the best anime to come out of last year, including the likes of "86", "Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro", "Ranking of Kings", "Attack on Titan: The Final Season", "Tokyo Revengers", and more!

Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean

Top 20 Anime of 2021

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we are counting down our picks for the Top 20 Anime of 2021.

For this list, we’re bolstering our selection from last year by looking over the greatest anime hits to come out over 2021, from the heavy hitters to some not-so-hidden gems! Think we still missed out on one of the year’s defining anime entries? Let us know in the comments!

#20: “Tokyo Revengers” (2021)

Time travel, gang warfare, redemption, and a whole lot of tears – Takemichi’s journey was as brutal as it was endearing. While certainly lacking in punching power, the crybaby hero’s strength of character is undeniable, one that continued to push him onward in his various attempts to save his old flame from an untimely death…by joining the same gang responsible in the hope of changing it from within. As expected with anything to do with time loops…there’s a lot of heart-breaking trial and error involved. The struggle to find the perfect route has never been so intense!

#19: “SSSS.Dynazenon” (2021)

Following on from the unexpectedly awesome time that was SSSS.Gridman, Dynazenon continued the trend of blending together giant mecha, killer visuals, a horde of kaiju, and interspersing it with mature characterisation. The new cast of pilots not only have to deal with monster-based conspiracies, but also their own personal brand of dark teenage drama. There’s a little something for everyone here, whether it’s the crazy action, tokusatsu homages or surprisingly sweet relationships, all in all we can’t wait to see where the
Gridman Extended Universe goes next!

#18: “Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro” (2021)

We’ve found her people, we have found the transcendent waifu – the one who takes the best elements of every “dere” subgenre, all rolled into one adorable, feisty package. While initially coming across as hostile to each other, Nagatoro and Senpai’s relationship swiftly develops from relentless teasing to one of the most heartfelt romances we’ve seen in a long while. There’s nothing more adorable than a firecracker like Nagatoro becoming possessive of her socially awkward crush, whilst also wrestling with her own growing affections.

#17: “Baki Hanma” (2021)

And the muscle-bound, insane fight-fest continues. Just when you thought Baki’s antics couldn’t get more ridiculous, he finds himself taking on the full force of America! And by that we mean he’s sent to a crazy prison and has to battle against the guards, his fellow inmates, and the mountain of muscle that is Biscuit Oliva. If you’re a Baki fan, you already know what to expect, though this installment certainly goes all in showcasing just how much of a monster the Son of the Ogre has become when it comes to combat.

#16: “Komi Can't Communicate” (2021)

A woman of few words yet hailed as a goddess among her peers, from the outset, Komi appears to be the perfect lady. And she might be, just not for the reasons you think. Crippled by her communication disorder yet still desperate to make friends, Komi’s life starts to shift with the introduction of the ultimate everyman/unsuspecting giga-chad Tadano, whose ability to see her for who she is kickstarts a slew of hilarious and tender interactions. The only problem you’ll have with this series will be between choosing who you prefer – regular or kitty Komi.

#15: “My Hero Academia” Season Five (2021)

Was it as impressive as previous seasons? Not exactly, but it certainly delivered where it counted. Between the drama with Todoroki’s family and Deku trying to control his additional Quirk, it was certainly a slower burn than we were used to…only for that all to be flipped on its head courtesy of the My Villain Academia arc. Shigaraki’s development and descent into absolute villainy was thrilling, reaffirming himself as the one true big bad for the heroes of tomorrow to overcome. Now that the groundwork has been laid, we’re hoping next season slays it!

#14: “Dr Stone: Stone Wars” (2021)

How is it possible to overcome an empire of violent youths in a stone world where modern technology has been lost, while also ensuring that the siege itself remains bloodless? With the power of science, that’s how! Determined to best Tsukasa and his cronies without losing a single life, Senku’s second outing certainly leans towards the action-orientated side of things, but rest-assured, there’s still plenty of physics and chemical know-how added to the mix. Leave it to the mad scientist to educate us on the helpful nature of nitro-glycerine.

#13 “Laid Back Camp” Season Two (2021)

If you’re looking to watch something that leaves you completely zen, then look no further than the continuing exploits of the Outclub. Once again trekking all over Japan in search of fun places to camp out, the new season offers a heaping helping of goodwill and warmth as its characters dine on local cuisine, whilst also camping out amongst such stunning vistas you’ll forget they’re animated. Don’t be shocked if you get the sudden urge to buy yourself a tent, the relaxation is infectious.

#12: “The Case Study of Vanitas” (2021)

From Wonderland to vampires, the creator of Pandora Heart’s latest effort has left many of us charmed, all thanks to a whimsical interpretation of the gothic lore, flashy characters, and a surprising amount sex appeal. Seriously, every bloodsucker here is in a perpetual horny mode. Despite being vilified for his cursed origins; the eccentric Vanitas seeks to undo the afflictions plaguing vampires thanks to the contents of his sacred book, only to find himself having to contend with multiple moving pieces, as well as the living nightmare that is Charlatan. Well worth taking a bite out of!

#11: “86” (2021)

A political-military thriller of incredible potential, 86 is a relentless meditation on prejudice, conflict and how the only thing scarier than a legion of crazed mechs is how clashing ideologies can lead to such inhuman atrocities. Determined to make a difference in the lives of the squad under her command, Lena endeavors to not only keep them alive, but try to improve the lives of those dubbed as 86s to the best of her ability. Only for her to be constantly reminded that the world she lives in is not so accommodating. Fair warning, this is a brutal one.

#10: “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean” (2021)

Seeing out the year with a festive helping of Ora Ora Ora, we have the long-awaited next chapter in the Joestar bloodlines’ increasingly crazy exploits. Taking her father’s place in the spotlight, Jolyne Cujoh not only stands tall as the first female JoJo, but kicked off her solo series in style. Falsely accused and imprisoned, it falls to Jolyne and her new band of prison buddies to break out and bring the conspiracy behind her incarceration to light. Between all the new Stands and ever-increasing list of waifus, we can’t wait to see what heights Jolyne and Stone Free will reach next.

#9: “To Your Eternity” (2021)

A meditation on the various aspects of humanity, set in a fantasy world ripe with danger and ugliness, penned by the author of A Silent Voice. Is It any wonder this made so many weep in the first episode alone? Fushi’s journey from sentient orb to wolf to boy made for an enchanting viewing experience, if a heart-breaking one. Not only did he have to contend with the grossness of the Nokkers as they endeavored to steal away his power, but also come to grips with the frailty of mortality, as each of his newfound friends and loved ones enter and exit his immortal life.

#8: “Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song” (2021)

Blending tense sci-fi shenanigans with the intrinsic nature of music, Vivy’s mission to avoid a future where mankind is wiped out by an onslaught of corrupted A.I was a thrill-ride from start to finish, one that didn’t only offer banging songs but some unexpectedly frantic and fluid action. Even if some elements of the Singularity Project plotline come across a little off-key, the bond and banter between Vivy and Matsumoto was so delightful that its worth watching just to see how their companionship evolves!

#7: “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime” Season Two (2021)

Cementing itself among the upper echelons of the isekai genre, Rimuru’s continuing adventures not only brought us plenty more explosive fights, but also dared to venture into darker territory. The sequel season explores that even as a borderline unstoppable slime monster, Rimuru isn’t above consequences, and propping up a nation full of monsters in a world where prejudice and human greed is king, certainly lends itself to some dire consequences. Though it might have been worth it when you consider the amazing clashes that sprung from their conflict. Or in Shogo’s case – a complete thrashing.

#6: “Megalo Box 2: Nomad” (2021)

This sequel had no right to be as good as it was! While it had a solid foundation and served as a worthy successor to Tomorrow’s Joe, the original Megalo Box unfortunately flopped during its all-important final punch out. And then along came Nomad, and demolished out expectations. Going from champion to tormented junkie, Joe’s fall from grace had so much weight and nuance to it, that watching him slowly rise up to reclaim his dignity and passion for boxing was a true spectacle. That, and we couldn’t get enough of Chief.

#5: “Odd Taxi” (2021)

Where did this anthropomorphic gem come from?! You’ve got the silky wordplay of a Tarantino movie combined with one of the tightest written mysteries to ever appear in an anime, all saturated in a cornucopia of exquisitely realized characters, who just happen to appear as animal hybrids. This is certainly one that needs to be watched with untainted eyes given the abundance of twists, but let's just say…being a walrus and a taxi driver in this town isn’t easy. Especially when the key players attached to a missing person’s case happen to drift in and out of your inner circle.

#4: “Ranking of Kings” (2021)

Wit Studio just doesn’t miss! With an aesthetic straight out of a Ghibli production, this fantasy romp is an utter delight to watch. As the son of a mighty king, the young prince Boji eagerly seeks to live up to the legacy of his father…the only problem being that he’s deaf and has no strength to speak of. Not only does he have to overcome the adversity of his weaker body, but also save his kingdom when dark forces threaten to overrun it. By taking classic tropes of the genre and injecting it with an unabashed amount of charm, Wit have created something truly special with this.

#3: “Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation” (2021)

There’s something poetic about the original isekai taking back its crown, all thanks to an adaptation that absolutely dominates over its contemporaries. After biting the dust via Truck-kun, a middle-aged loser is reborn in a world filled with magic. As flawed as he is, Rudeus’ second chance at life has nonetheless unraveled into an epic, sprawling tale, filled with all the action and character introspection we could have wanted. The flawless animation combined with the worldbuilding, and saga potential has well and truly raised the bar.

#2: “Attack on Titan: The Final Season” (2021)

Just when you thought it was impossible to top the roller-coaster that was Season Three, MAPPA delivered onto us the first part of this modern anime masterpiece’s closing chapter. Delving deep into the lore and dropping bombshells with each new episode, the war between Paradis and Marley was more than we could have ever expected. And right at the center of it all we’ve got Eren, who by this point has completed his transformation from bratty rebel all the way to chad with an untold number of layers, and an endgame that might just destroy the world…

Before we reveal our number pick, here’s a colossal number of honorable mentions you need to check out!

“Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid S” (2021)

“Sk8 the Infinity” (2021)

“The Idaten Deities Know Only Peace” (2021)

“Godzilla Singular Point” (2021)

“Beastars” Season Two

“Kemono Jihen” (2021)

“Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash” (2021)

#1: “Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time” (2021)

Holy shit, it exists, an actual ending to the Evangelion franchise! Not only is it confounding that we actually got to the point…but that the final product turned out to be pretty damn spectacular. Serving as the conclusion to the Rebuild-verse as well as the series in general, Anno’s vision is perfectly realized here, with Shinji and the rest trying to bring an end to the threat of the Angels once and for all. While we’re sure there were many who were stung due to who actually won the waifu wars, it’s still very much the good ending fans had been pinning for. At long last, Shinji got in the robot.