2021 is almost over! Seriously, in just a few days, another year of incredible anime will be in our rearview mirror. So, we figured, what better way to celebrate than by breaking down some of our favorites from the last 12 months?
To qualify for this list, a series (or movie) needs to have aired at least one episode, or premiered in 2021. We scoured our virtual offices from around the world to ask our employees what anime stood out to them this year. Talk about a stacked lineup.
Take a look at the full list below! What were your favorites from 2021? Share this post and let us know! And stay tuned to Funimation for the latest on all things anime, this season and beyond.
86 EIGHTY-SIX – Waqar, UK Community & Social Media Coordinator
Now, I’m not a seasonal watcher and don’t really watch anime as they air, but a lot of stars aligned for me to watch 86. It’s rare for a series to hook me in the first episode, but this show manages it with its characters and plot setup.
The series is about war, loss, discrimination and change. 86 is quite unique in the sense that the two main characters don’t actually meet, but rather communicate verbally over a system called Para-RAID for the entirety of the series (at least where I’m up to in the English dub).
The show has beautiful scenes, particularly in an episode that takes place during the night, as the characters have a heart-to-heart while looking at the stars. Though romance isn’t explicit, you can see tiny hints as the show progresses. As I continued watching, I realized that this show doesn’t take any prisoners, so prepare yourselves. If you want action, mech spiders and possible romance, then 86 might just be right up your alley.
Honorable mentions: Star Wars: Visions, Black Clover
The Case Study of Vanitas – Allie Norado, Associate Brand Manager
Honorable mention: SSSS.DYNAZENON
Fruits Basket The Final Season – MJ Takahashi, Associate Brand Manager
It is wicked hard every year to choose (I usually try to avoid it), but I would say Fruits Basket The Final Season was one of my top favorite anime for 2021. Like many, I had read the manga, as well as watched the previous adaptation growing up, and the 2019 anime adaptation has been amazing to experience as it culminated to this season for the TV series.
This season picked up from when Tohru learns about Akito’s secret, and from there we go on an emotional and incredible ride as Tohru and the members of the Soma family work toward the conclusion of their fight against the curse. To keep it spoiler-free, we learn a lot more about the characters’ pasts, see them (Momiji…) and their relationships grow further, and feel so much with them.
I’m pretty sure that I teared if not cried every episode for and with them. The music, animation, directing and voice acting made the story and characters come alive—I enjoyed it all. I’d get sucked in, forget my worries for the day, and be left thinking not only about Fruits Basket but reflecting also about various things that I valued in my life.
I am very much looking forward to Fruits Basket -prelude- (Kyoko-san!).
Honorable mentions: One Piece, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Horimiya, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train, My Senpai is Annoying, Kemono Jihen, Violet Evergarden the Movie, Ranking of Kings, The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, SK8 the Infinity, LINK CLICK, Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan
Horimiya – Tyler Schirado, Communications & PR Manager
Horimiya is a pleasantly succinct adaptation of one of the most wholesome, yet unexpected romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while. Just when you think you have Hori-san and Miyamura-kun figured out, there’s always an element of surprise that evolves the characters in a delightful way that only strengthens their bond and keeps you rooting for them to succeed.
This slice of life high school rom-com also has a well-fleshed-out supporting student body cast who bring challenges to our main characters, giving this universe more heart and warmth as we learn more about each of their lives and relationships to one another. Overall, Horimiya brings the best elements of a silly budding relationship comedy and a sweet coming-of-age high school drama together in a really thoughtful anime.
Honorable mentions: Ranking of Kings, Mieruko-chan
JUJUTSU KAISEN – Tom Crane, Sales Coordinator – Australia
The mix of the dark tones, humour, epic fight scenes and well-fleshed-out characters just make the show *chef’s kiss*
Honorable mention: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan – Steven Porfiri, Social Media Copywriter
It’s a darkly humorous and fun slice of life that deals with things like stress, burnout and depression in ways that allow viewers to relate to these issues, but also laugh and potentially cope with them.
Each main character feels fleshed out and has their own histories, wants and struggles, and there are plenty of fantastic songs performed by Mamoru Miyano and Nana Mizuki.
Honorable mentions: Super Cub, The Dungeon of Black Company, The Vampire Dies in No Time, My Senpai is Annoying
LINK CLICK – Haley Whisennand, Sr. Audience Development Manager
LINK CLICK! I know it’s not an anime, but I’m naming it my top of the year because honestly it was just SO GOOD! It’s always really difficult to predict whether or not an original series will grab my attention or not, but I think that uncertainty makes shows like LINK CLICK all the more exciting when they come around.
Cheng Xiaoshi’s impulsive nature is balanced out with Lu Guang’s thoughtful, meticulous planning, making them the perfect duo for their line of work. But LINK CLICK exemplifies life’s unpredictable nature, even when going back into the past. Each individual story is an emotional roller coaster, but then adding on the overarching series plot makes it an absolutely amazing experience.
The season finale wrapped with a frustratingly perfect cliff-hanger and, fortunately, Season 2 was confirmed immediately after, guaranteeing that we’ll get answers eventually. And with the new PV that was released during bilibili’s 2022 showcase event, I cannot wait for more Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang next year!
Honorable mentions: ODD TAXI, Kemono Jihen, IDOLiSH7: Third Beat!, SK8 the Infinity, Backflip!!, Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-, SHADOWS HOUSE, Mo Dao Zu Shi Season 3, Those Snow White Notes, The Case Study of Vanitas, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Fena: Pirate Princess, Ranking of Kings
Ranking of Kings – Nicholas Friedman, Sr. Manager, Content Marketing & Editorial
There is nothing quite like Ranking of Kings. Effortlessly classic and instantly timeless, this tale of the young prince Bojji and his shadow companion Kage is pure bliss from its opening moments to its painted ending sequence.
While first impressions may have you thinking this is a show for children, let’s just say that its mature and emotional storytelling nestles itself between the best of high fantasy and the magic of early anime. Violence, betrayal and more all abound, and you’ll be out of your seat screaming for Bojji every step of the way.
Honorable mentions: Tokyo Revengers, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-, The Heike Story, Godzilla: Singular Point, Komi Can’t Communicate, Dr. STONE: STONE WARS, The Vampire Dies in No Time
SK8 the Infinity – Melissa, Sr. Graphic Designer
Hiroko Utsumi’s return to sports anime is pure genius. SK8 the Infinity doesn’t hide how much it leans into joseimuke character tropes, and in fact celebrates them with the same subversive female gaze that is a hallmark of Utsumi’s anime.
The adolescent angst and sports melodrama of Free! combines with the urban aesthetics of BANANA FISH into what is both a fresh take on sports anime and familiar territory: Reki and Langa promising to skate together forever definitely won me over.
It’s not often that you can feel a creator’s own enthusiasm as strongly as you do in SK8 the Infinity, and an Utsumi anime never disappoints.
Honorable mentions: The Stranger by the Shore, given movie, Backflip!!, Laid-Back Camp Season 2, Moriarty the Patriot
Sonny Boy – Aly Luskey, Community & Social Coordinator
Sonny Boy is definitely one of my top picks for anime of the year. Anyone familiar with Shingo Natsume’s work (One-Punch Man, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.) and MADHOUSE (Death Parade, The Vampire Dies in No Time) will love the familiarity of the animation as well as the strangeness of the ever-evolving plot.
This original anime demands the viewer pay close attention which can be somewhat frustrating and lead to being easily lost, but I think that’s what makes it truly enjoyable. It’s different and beautiful.
Honorable mentions: Horimiya, Heaven’s Design Team, The Vampire Dies in No Time, Ranking of Kings
To Your Eternity – Jonna Miller, Manager of Copywriting
A fresh, gripping tale of evolution. That’s what got me. I’d never seen immortality or higher powers depicted like this. So many stories show an omnipotent god sending henchmen down for a comedic romp in human affairs. Nuh-uh, not this one.
We’ve got a shadowy being who tosses a sphere onto the earth and watches it struggle into life from a stone, to a wolf, to a boy, and then to a beast. And then back to a person who learns what it means to have a conscience from the dozens of humans we meet along the way. If you like character growth, my friend, that is literally the plot here.
If you like emotional depth that will leave you sobbing in Episode 1, guess what. This is from Yoshitoki Ōima, the very same manga artist behind the award-winning movie, A Silent Voice. Feelings are guaranteed. The pacing is chill, the anime is 1-to-1 with the manga, and Season 2 is coming next October. I recommend this to everybody.
Honorable mentions: 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Blue Period, SK8 the Infinity, Horimiya, MEGALOBOX 2: NOMAD, The Duke of Death and His Maid, Ranking of Kings
The Vampire Dies in No Time – Alex Lebl, Associate Brand Manager
When I need a pick-me-up during the week, I watch this show. It is so sincerely dumb, and I absolutely love it. John the Armadillo is a golden god, and the dynamic between Ronaldo, Draluc, and the other Hunters and Vampires is absolutely perfect.
Plus, the abilities of the baddies are amazing. Making people say dirty things? Giving victims a micro bikini? Where have these villains been all my life? This was the perfect way for MADHOUSE to return.
Honorable mentions: Ranking of Kings, SK8 the Infinity, Horimiya, 86 EIGHTY-SIX, takt op.Destiny
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 2 – Mikelle Stack, Sales Coordinator
It was a new show that felt nostalgic. The character and background design reminded me of older shows in so many ways that I was genuinely surprised this was a new show. It has been something to keep you smiling and laughing while the world burns around you!
Honorable mentions: WONDER EGG PRIORITY, So I’m a Spider, So What?, SK8 the Infinity, Fruits Basket The Final Season
WONDER EGG PRIORITY – Mitchell Lineham, Communications Associate
I love how this series tackled so many intense and sensitive themes with care, and I felt that it really did a lot with the medium. It’s stuck with me since my first viewing, and it sure as heck isn’t leaving me anytime soon.
Honorable mentions: The Quintessential Quintuplets 2, Fruits Basket The Final Season