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Star Wars: Visions
Star Wars: Visions

The best anime series of 2021

2021 has been a great year in anime entertainment. Here's our roundup of the year's best offerings, from fresh entries to familiar favorites.
This article is over 2 years old and may contain outdated information

Try as you might, there’s just no getting away from the anime genre. By now, you’ve probably already started carving your own personal path through the genre after hearing your friends incessantly chatter about their favorite Demon Slayer scene or the new episode of Boruto on Crunchyroll. But that’s the thing ⏤ once we’ve been guided to certain popular franchises, we have a tendency to not pay much attention to the other great anime titles that are also available on streaming, and many of us miss out on a lot of great stories that we don’t hear about until later. 

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As it is every year, 2021 has been jam-packed with new releases that have gained quite a cult following in a short period of time, so if you’re not already aware of these awesome shows, then it’s time to get familiar with some of the best anime to premiere in 2021.

Tokyo Revengers

Going back in time or being transported to a different world to start life over again seems to be a popular theme this year in the world of anime, and understandably so. Who wouldn’t love the chance to do life over again? That said, if it’s anything like Tokyo Revengers, then you may not be so eager to relive your past. 

When mild-mannered part-time employee Takemichi is purposely pushed in front of a train, he finds himself transported 12 years into the past during his middle school days as a 14-year-old wannabe delinquent. Convinced that he’s been given a second chance, Takemichi is determined to change the course of a bleak future where his middle school girlfriend Hina dies at the hands of the Tokyo Manji Gang. In order to change the future, Takemichi decides to join the infamous Tokyo Maji gang and develops close friendships with its top-ranking members, like their powerful young leader Mikey and his surprisingly mature second in command, Draken. But somehow, no matter how hard Takemichi tries, he always finds a new tragic event in the present that traces back to the criminal activities of the Tokyo Manji gang.

Full of gritty street action and well-developed drama, Tokyo Revengers has solidified itself as one of the best breakout hits of 2021.

Sk8 the Infinity

A refreshing change of pace from your typical shonen anime, Sk8 the Infinity revolves around the bonds of budding friendship and the excitement of extreme skateboarding. Reki, a hard-working skateboarder with an intense love for the sport, is introduced to a Canadian transfer student, Langa, at school and tasked with showing him around. Wasting no time, Reki introduces Langa to the Japanese skateboarding culture and takes him to the underground skateboarding races known simply as the “S.” 

Originally a snowboarder, Langa quickly gravitates towards the sport, and with the help of Reki, trains to get good enough to hang with the best riders of S. However, things aren’t always fun, as S riders appear to cause a rift between the two friends while Langa begins to outperform his buddy and mentor. Although it may not be the action-packed slugfest that most anime fans live for, Sk8 the Infinity is a charming anime that focuses on the bonds and backstories of the skateboarders while providing a flowing narrative that incorporates the art of skateboarding into a neat little package. 

Sonny Boy

From the creator of Boogiepop and Others, Shingo Natsume’s Sonny Boy is a unique and original sci-fi survival drama that gives off a lot of heavy Lord of the Flies vibes. The show follows a class of high school students who get mysteriously transported along with their school to another dimension with no explanation as to how or why. With no adult supervision, the students are left alone to figure out how to escape their weird situation. And to make matters worse, some of the students have somehow acquired supernatural abilities that they have also begun to abuse in order to quell their own wants and desires.

Full of adolescent drama and a compelling plot, Sonny Boy is a crazy coming-of-age thriller that pushes the envelope of sci-fi to its limits. With its cast of memorable characters, Sonny Boy is an epic story that will keep you engaged with its humor and unique concept.

Star Wars: Visions

Star Wars: Visions is an anthology that brings together seven different anime studios to tell their own stories in the Star Wars universe through the world’s most popular animated medium. Using anime’s eccentric approach to storytelling, Star Wars: Visions introduces fans to a different side of the storied space saga, like a bunny girl wielding lightsaber katanas or a group of Sith clones cutting entire Star Destroyers in half with super-powered lightsabers. 

If you’re a fan of Star Wars and anime, then Star Wars: Visions is going to be the anime anthology that you’ll want to get your hands on eventually just so you can make it a part of your collection.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation

Getting reincarnated has always been an intriguing concept for anime to dive into, and it’s gotten so popular recently that many anime this year have been adaptations of isekai manga, the fantasy subgenre where a person from Earth is transported to, reborn, or trapped in a parallel universe or fantasy world. 

One of the first to roll out in 2021, Mushoku Tensei is an isekai anime that follows the life of a perverted 34-year-old unemployed recluse who dies after getting hit by a truck and gets reincarnated as a newborn baby in an alternate fantasy world. Determined to live a much better life on his second go-around, Rudeus Greyart grows to become a powerful young mage who makes a living teaching magic. Full of adult humor, incredible action, thorough world-building, and compelling adventures, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation is a grand anime tale that is sure to keep you engaged during every episode.

Blade Runner: Black Lotus

From Crunchyroll and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim comes a chapter from the Blade Runner saga that is sure to awe fans of the famous science fiction series. Fully animated in CGI, Blade Runner: Black Lotus is set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles in the year 2032 and revolves around a young woman named Elle who wakes up with no memory. All she has to her name is a set of deadly combat skills and a mysterious locked data device that holds the key to her troubled past.

Angry and confused, it doesn’t take Elle long to get herself involved in several conflicts in the underworld as she searches for answers pertaining to her identity. Unfortunately, in a world where artificial humans known as Replicants are mass-produced to interact in the activities of human society, finding the answers to her origins may prove to be more difficult than Elle ever imagined. If you haven’t seen it yet, or you missed its time slot on the Adult Swim schedule, then now is a perfect time to catch up and stream it for free on Crunchyroll.

The World’s Finest Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World as an Aristocrat

This is another isekai anime that follows the story of a middle-aged, high-level assassin who meets an untimely end and is given the chance to be reincarnated in another fantasy world in exchange for killing that world’s hero. Afterwards, his soul is reincarnated as Lugh Tuatha Dé, the eldest son in a family of aristocratic assassins. 

As Lugh grows up, he’s taught in the ways of the family methods of assassination, magic and medicine while rescuing young girls in distress who he senses may have hidden levels of killing prowess that could prove useful to him in the future. As he continues to grow older and train his own court of assassins, Lugh prepares for the fateful day when he finally has to face The Hero and…kill him.

Platinum End

From the creator of Death Note comes another supernatural battle of wits between humans in the new religious psychological thriller Platinum End. The series follows Mirai Kakehashi, a high school student so fed up with his life that he attempts to end it all by jumping off a building…only to be saved by his guardian angel, Nasse. It’s then revealed to him that he has been chosen as one of 12 candidates for the role of God. For the rather peaceful Mirai, he just wants to live the rest of his life happy. However, some candidates don’t feel the same way and are willing to kill each other to have a better chance at taking God’s place. But first, they have to find one another.

Now Mirai is forced into a daily cat-and-mouse routine to conceal his identity and stay alive. But when other peaceful God candidates are mercilessly killed in front of his very eyes, he realizes that he may not be able to avoid getting his own hands dirty.

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood

From Studio Mir ⏤ the company best known for its work on animated series like The Legend of Korra and Netflix’s Voltron Legendary DefendersDOTA: Dragon’s Blood is a surprisingly mature turn from its previous projects. The story revolves around Davion, a confident and courageous Dragon Knight tasked with killing an Elder Dragon or Eldwyrm that has made a home under a local village. However, after venturing through the depths of the underground to face the dragon, Davion finds himself in the middle of an intense battle between the Eldwyrm Slyrak and an Eldwyrm possessed by a mythical supernatural villain known as Terrorblade. 

Now tasked with helping Slyrak protect the dragon world from the nefarious plots of Terrorblade, Davion is stuck having to use Slyrak’s power to stop the ancient villain. At least, that is if the other Dragon Knights don’t kill him first.

High-Rise Invasion

Creeping from the vaults of Netflix’s craziest shows, High-Rise Invasion is a suspense anime that traps random Japanese citizens in a high-rise world where the mysteries of anonymous assailants known as The Masks unlock the world’s main objective. This ultimately leads to alliances being built among the survivors as they try to navigate and defeat the masks, all while trying to figure out the identity of the world’s puppet master and how to finally return to their world.

However, not everyone wants to go back. There are some who embrace their new environment as a chance to live out sadistic fantasies or become something more than what they were in their old lives. These people will also do what it takes to stay in their new world, even if it means killing any survivors who don’t agree. A great anime with a very original concept that’s filled with action, humor, suspense and compelling storytelling, High-Rise Invasion is an underrated yet fitting addition on the list of some of the best anime to premiere this year.

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